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Reducing the carbon footprint of UK Network Rail’s Birmingham New Street station

A ground-breaking green initiative to reduce Birmingham New Street’s carbon footprint is underway.

The project sees Network Rail, Birmingham City Council, Cofely and sustainability consultants, Anthesis-SecondNature, join forces to deliver a project which will see 1.5km district heating pipework installed across the station and in the City Centre to enable excess heat produced by a new combined heat and power (CHP) unit to be exported to the Birmingham District Energy Scheme.

The scheme, owned and operated by Cofely in close partnership with BCC, supplies heat to offices and other buildings in the City including Aston University and the National Indoor Arena, as well as the new John Lewis store adjacent to the station and will extend to other Southside developments in the future.

Network Rail’s £600m rebuilt New Street station is three times the size of the old station and will have 31 new escalators and 29 new lifts, all of which require more electricity than the previous station.

A combined heat and power (CHP) plant has been developed as the greenest and most economically viable way to create the necessary energy required which also reduces the station’s carbon footprint by putting the excess heat created to good use.

The connection of the station to the Birmingham District Energy Scheme enables excess heat produced by the station’s CHP plant to be pumped to dozens of offices and buildings around the station, including the new John Lewis store in the Grand Central development.

This is the first time that a CHP plant has been used in a Network Rail managed station. It offers considerable carbon reducing benefits, achieving better energy efficiency performance because it captures and uses heat that would have otherwise been wasted.

Patrick Cawley, Network Rail’s programme sponsor, said: “Innovation and sustainability is at the core of this project and reducing the station’s carbon footprint by building our own combined heating and power plant is a great example. The excess heat created by the station’s plant can now be used by the city’s shared district heating network to supply surrounding offices and businesses.”

As a result of this initiative the Birmingham New Street station will reduce its energy bills as well as achieve a lower carbon footprint per square meter, potentially cutting carbon emissions by up to 3,000 tonnes per year when combined with the wider scheme.

Councillor Tahir Ali, Cabinet Member for Development, Transport and the Economy at Birmingham City Council said: “I am really pleased that the new station is joining the city’s existing shared district heating network to the north side of the station, which already provides heat to a number of key buildings, including the ICC, Birmingham Children’s hospital and the new Library of Birmingham.

“It will further reduce the city’s carbon footprint and provides considerable potential to expand. There are a number of public buildings in the vicinity to the station, which have been identified for possible connection to the district heating. The scheme also provides a huge potential for connecting adjacent buildings with district heating, and support a more sustainable regeneration that is planned for the south of the city centre.”

Cofely is working with Network Rail and Birmingham City Council to expand the current district scheme from the Town Hall, along New Street and Stephenson Street, to reach the station and other parts of the city that were previously constrained by the station footprint.

Cofely’s Ben Watts added: “We are delighted to be working with Network Rail at New Street station and expanding the district energy scheme in Birmingham city centre. The project delivers cost and carbon savings for Network Rail and has enabled the interconnection of the district energy scheme between Victoria Square and the Aston University Campus.

“This latest development of the Birmingham District Energy scheme creates one of the most extensive low carbon heat networks in the UK, which now supplies buildings across all sectors including healthcare, education, local authority, commercial, residential and retail as well as New Street itself – saving over 15,600 tonnes of CO2 per annum.

“We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with Network Rail and Birmingham City Council and supporting them in their ambitious plans for a greener Birmingham.”

Charles Perry, previous director of Anthesis-SecondNature said: “This project is an example of what can be achieved when organisations put sustainability at the heart of their operations. Sustainable behaviour is not about green-washing, it is about changing the way we do business to make it more profitable, more socially acceptable and more environmentally friendly – the three are interrelated as this project clearly demonstrates.”

For more information, please contact Jono Adams at

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