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Talyllyn Railway offsets coal emissions by investing in woodland

Talyllyn Railway has invested in planting trees at Breckenhill in Northern Ireland to offset carbon emissions from steam trains.

Mid Wales-based Talyllyn Railway has taken an important step on its journey to becoming carbon neutral by investing in planting trees.

The narrow-gauge heritage railway, which runs between Tywyn and Nant Gwernol, Abergynolwyn, is partnering with Forest Carbon, a company that develops nature-based climate projects in the UK.

The intent of this pioneering partnership is to offset emissions created from coal burnt by the railway’s steam locomotives.

Talyllyn Railway is investing in a carbon-financed woodland scheme based in Breckenhill, Northern Ireland, which has planted 1,688 trees on 1.1 hectares, and is also keen to invest in woodland or peatland restoration projects within Wales.

The railway, in a typical year, consumes 95 tonnes of coal which creates 210 tonnes of CO2e  – the equivalent to 127 people on a return flight from London to Los Angeles –  although that has been significantly reduced during the pandemic.

Investment in the Breckenhill project, which is validated under the UK’s Woodland Carbon Code, will lead to the sequestration of 322 tonnes of CO2 over the next 50 years.

In partnership with Forest Carbon, the railway is also actively looking for local Welsh-based landowners who might be interested in increasing woodland on their land or participating in peatland restoration projects.

In the shorter term, the railway has committed to offset its emissions annually through the purchase of verified carbon credits through the Carbon Neutral Britain Climate Fund scheme.

General manager Stuart Williams said: “As a heritage steam railway, for which coal burning steam locomotives are an integral part of the visitor experience, we are keen to make sure we minimise the impact of our operation wherever possible.

“We were attracted to working with Forest Carbon as they offered a long-term solution. The Talyllyn is looking to implement annual offsetting projects to complement this scheme, especially those based in Wales where possible.

“We will be offering our customers the chance to be able to pay a small premium on their ticket price to individually offset their journey and will be encouraging our membership to donate too.  Any donations made will be reinvested in similar projects.”

Matthew Hay, from Forest Carbon, said: “We are delighted to be working with Talyllyn Railway to address their climate impact and welcome their investment into UK nature-based solutions by supporting woodland creation at Breckenhill.

“Planting trees, especially native species, delivers a whole host of environmental benefits beyond carbon sequestration, so we really value the contribution of committed organisations like Talyllyn, who are willing to step up and put their money where their mouth is, sustainability wise.”

The railway has already invested in several sustainability projects including a 13kw solar panel installation, electric car chargers at the two main stations and the removal of single use plastics.

It also recently adopted a new environmental policy which covers resource management, water, electricity and biodiversity. The railway appreciates how important it is to be carbon neutral and is constantly looking at ways to improve its environmental credentials.