LAST MONTH, three railways unveiled projects intended to reduce the rail industry's dependence on diesel fuel.

On June 14, Brazilian industrial giant Companhia Vale do Rio Doce announced in Rio de Janiero that it will use biological fuel on its Vitória a Minas Railway, following positive tests with two locomotives burning a mix of conventional diesel and 20% 'biofuel'. EFVM trains will initially run with the biodiesel mix for six months, using fuelling points at Tubarão and Nova Era.

CVRD is the largest consumer of diesel in Brazil, and it sees biofuel as a clean, renewable source of energy derived from soya and castor oil beans that could be grown on farms in northern Brazil.

On June 18, Peru's Vice-President David Waisman visited Ferrocarril Central Andino, to launch its first diesel loco converted to operate on compressed natural gas. Unveiling two new 3 900 hp GE locos at the same event, FCAPresident Juan de Dios Olaechea said the railway's entire loco fleet would be converted to CNG within six months.

Svensk Biogas announced on June 17 that it plans to put a prototype biogas-fuelled railcar into service on SJ's 115 km Linköping - Västervik route in September. The Fiat-built Y1 railcar has been converted at a cost of SKr10m with two Volvo engines and 11 tanks carrying enough gas for 600 km of operation. Produced from waste in anaerobic digesters, the fuel comprises 50% to 80% methane with carbon dioxide and trace levels of other gases.