New UK train is sustainable because it runs on human waste

  • In the not-too-distant future, diesel trains in the UK could be replaced with a human-waste fueled alternative in a bid to help the environment
  • Ultra Light Rail Partners are working on the UltraBio – a 120-seater sustainable railcar
  • The new trains are set to run on branch lines re-opened under government plans to reverse railway cuts

Published on Feb 07, 2024 at 10:56 PM (UTC+4)
by Adam Gray

Last updated on Feb 08, 2024 at 5:29 PM (UTC+4)
Edited by Kate Bain

If you read the headline and checked your calendar to see if it’s April 1st, we can assure you this isn’t a joke.

Before long, humans in the UK might be using trains powered by their own waste and that of animals.

Apparently, there’s plans to replace the UK’s city trains and trams with biomethane-fueled alternatives in a bid to help the environment.

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Just to bring you up to speed, biomethane is a type of biofuel derived from several waste products, including sewage sludge, farming crop residue, animal manure, and food waste.

These waste products are broken down by a bacteria to produce a gas that is, in turn, used as a cleaner alternative fuel.

We’ve heard that Rolls-Royce is working on a hydrogen jet engine that could change flights forever, and of an electric magnetic vacuum-tube that blurs the lines between train and aircraft – but this takes the proverbial biscuit.

The company behind it, Ultra Light Rail Partners (ULRP), has already received a £60,000 grant from the UK government’s Sustainable Innovation Fund to develop its biomethane-fueled train.

And they’re already putting that money to good use developing a sustainable railcar that’ll carry up to 120 passengers called the BioUltra.

These new trains are set to run on branch lines re-opened under government plans to reverse railway cuts.

Not everyone’s convinced by the idea, though, with some stating that biomethane releases carbon into the atmosphere.

While this is true, others argue it would be released anyway by natural processes.

But using biomethane as a fuel simply gives the components a new life that prevents the need for burning fossil fuels.

“This really is a vote of confidence in our business which is fully focussed on providing lightweight affordable railcar travel as a comfortable, modern, reliable and safe alternative to traveling by car,” Beverley Nielsen, the chair of ULRP, said in a statement.

“We want to be able to offer this option to larger towns and smaller cities around the UK so they can realistically take polluting vehicles out of their city and town centers improving quality of life for all. 

“Recent monitoring by Sustainability West Midlands identified that reducing the levels of just one pollutant, PM2.5, by 50 percent would prevent as many as 952 deaths in the West Midlands alone each year.”

Not only will the BioUltra run on human waste, it’s also being developed with the post-COVID-19 world in mind.

As such, there will be several features making the train safe, including ultraviolet lights and heavily filtered air, according to a statement from the Black Country Chamber of Commerce.

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Adam Gray

Adam Gray is an experienced motoring journalist and content creator based in the United Kingdom. Using his media accreditation with manufacturers’ press offices, Adam test drives the latest cars and attends new vehicle press launches, producing written reviews and news pieces for Before joining the Supercar Blondie team, Adam was Motoring Editor for Portfolio North magazine, North East Motoring Editor at Reach plc, and provided motoring content on a freelance basis to several lifestyle and business publications in the North of England. When he’s not behind the wheel of the latest car, Adam can be found at his local rink playing ice hockey or supporting his beloved Middlesbrough FC.