Exclusive: Boris Johnson and 'Amtrak Joe' Biden bonded over 'love of trains' in first phone call

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Josie Ensor
·3 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
British PM Johnson speaks to US President Joe Biden from London - Reuters
British PM Johnson speaks to US President Joe Biden from London - Reuters

Boris Johnson and Joe Biden bonded over their shared love of trains in the first call between the leaders, discussing how green energy and climate change would be a “number one priority” for both countries.

The Prime Minister, who is believed to be Mr Biden’s first call to a foreign leader outside of the Americas, asked the US president about his Amtrak train journeys across the country, a source familiar with the conversation told The Telegraph.

After Mr Biden’s wife and daughter died in a car crash in 1972, the then senator rode on Amtrak every day from his home in the state of Delaware to work in Washington DC. His plan to travel by train to his inauguration earlier this week was scuppered by security concerns.

The president has often talked about his passion for trains and lobbied in the Senate for more public funding for the rail sector, earning him the nickname “Amtrak Joe”.

Mr Biden lamented that he will not be able to take the train, which he has called his “favourite means of transport”, as much as he used to in his new White House role.

Mr Johnson, who has previously revealed he has a hobby of making model buses, last November announced plans for a “green industrial revolution.” Goals include ending sales of gas and diesel cars by 2030, promoting public transport, cycling and walking and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Joe Biden arrives at the Wilmington train station in Wilmington, Delaware in 2019 - AP
Joe Biden arrives at the Wilmington train station in Wilmington, Delaware in 2019 - AP

Mr Johnson used his first phone call with Mr Biden to welcome the announcements that the US is to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord and the World Health Organisation, and they discussed the prospects of a free trade deal.

“Boris congratulated Biden on the decision and expressed he was keen to see Biden move forward with net zero 2050,” said the source. “Both emphasised green travel.”

The call was said to be “very friendly”, with each “seeming to enjoy the other’s anecdotes”.

The Telegraph understands from sources close to the Biden’s administration that he intends to prioritise climate change, which will be one of his main focuses after the retreat of the threat from Covid-19. "He wants this to be his legacy."

He is planning more ambitious pledges even than former president Barack Obama in order to make up for the year the US was out of the accord.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington. - AP
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington. - AP

He campaigned during the election on his support for a Green New Deal, which involves $2 trillion investment in clean energy over four years, aiming for 100 per cent clean electricity by 2035. Environmental groups have called the climate plan the boldest in US history.

Senior campaign officials said it would be paid for through a mix of tax increases on corporations and the wealthy, and deficit spending aimed at stimulating the economy.

It is a plan that evolved during the campaign to take into account the view of progressives in the Democrat Party, like Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, that Mr Biden needed to commit to more sweeping and urgent action on the crisis.

Mr Biden on Friday also sought to placate Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, who had publicly expressed "disappointment" over the former’s decision to halt construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, an $8 billion project involving the US and Canada.

Mr Biden is reportedly planning on visiting the UK as his first trip outside North America as president. He will come to Cornwall in June for the G7 summit, however he is also now planning on visiting Mr Johnson before this date to set the foundations for a renewed Transatlantic special relationship.