Developing a net zero emissions strategy for Translink

Tetra Tech developed a net zero emissions strategy for Translink to reduce its carbon footprint by 100% before 2040 across its property portfolio and public transport fleet.

Making an entire transport fleet and property portfolio net zero-viable

With Translink possessing over 1,346 buses, 138 trains, and 120 buildings spread across 55 locations in Northern Ireland, there was no shortage of emissions to consider from factors like water, waste, business travel, and office consumables.

The programme scope was undoubtedly wide. Delivering an electrified train line alone required a highly detailed feasibility study and thorough understanding of the planning process. Achieving a zero-emission rail fleet by 2040 meant researching low-emission propulsion options for traction engines likely to reach viability within Translink’s timeframe.

Much of the project period took place during the Covid-19 lockdown, yet a great many external and internal stakeholders in Northern Ireland needed liaising with. Any devised strategy and carbon reduction measures had to respect the nuances of Translink’s operations while meeting its organisational infrastructure and sustainability goals.

Defining the scope and measures

Our strategy incorporated a high-level feasibility study into the infrastructure upgrades required for a hydrogen-powered bus network. We developed concept design for a modular hydrogen generation and storage system using de-centralised energy systems to generate hydrogen from zero carbon renewable energy.

We modelled carbon reduction targets aligned with the reduction trajectories specified in the Business in The Community Gold Pledge and delivered a sensitivity analysis to assess the methodologies used in the Science Based Targets guidance. This helped us narrow the programme scope, evaluate the annual greenhouse gas emissions baseline, and define the methodology for evaluating programme performance.

We also modelled the reduction in emissions trajectories for each area and then prioritised required actions accordingly.

Of particular note was the discovery that hydrogen storage proved far more cost-feasible than battery. This became a highly influential factor for considering whether to specify the future bus fleet as electric vehicles or whether to explore infrastructure for supporting hydrogen vehicles.

Through online conference facilities, we were able to maintain full engagement, commitment and input from all our key stakeholders.

A viable roadmap for meeting carbon reduction milestones

After our comprehensive options assessment process, we settled on a strategy and roadmap to meet the following milestones:

  • 50% emissions reduction by 2030
  • 63% emissions reduction by 2035
  • 100% emissions reduction by 2040

Carbon reduction plans have now been established for key areas, including buildings, where an enhanced carbon reduction programme has been designed for the existing portfolio, while new buildings have received zero carbon design specifications.

Key actions for the fleet will include establishing hybrid vehicles as the minimum standard for procurement processes, phasing out diesel vehicles and converting all metro buses to electric/hydrogen power drive systems by 2030. Reduction actions for trains include replacing traction engines for stage V/hybrid engines in 2025, with electrification of train lines to follow by 2037.

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