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Rail industry urges government rethink to deliver rail electrification at half the costs

The cost of rail electrification projects could be slashed by as much 50%, the Railway Industry Association (RIA) has revealed as it urges the government to review and renew its electrification programme.

The RIA has called on ministers to work with the rail industry and to renew its commitment to electrification after a number of schemes were cancelled in 2017.

Its Electrification Cost Challenge report shows that rail electrification can be delivered with costs cut by between 33% to 50% compared to previous projects, if the government commits to a rolling programme of work.

It said that the high costs of recent electrification projects can be slashed by establishing a 10-year rolling programme which would build up capabilities amongst rail businesses – therefore lowering costs.

David Clarke, the RIA’s technical director, said: “Electrification is clearly the optimal solution for intensively used railway lines, and should be seen as the priority choice in a hierarchy of options if the government is serious about decarbonising the rail network by 2040.

“A rolling programme of electrification would allow rail businesses to build up and retain expertise, further reducing the cost of future schemes.”

The report draws on lessons from previous projects including the Great Western Electrification Programme, and urges the government to revise its policy on electrification.

Around 40% of the UK’s rail network is electrified compared to around 60% or more in comparable European countries.

The RIA also stresses that electrification results in 60% lower carbon emissions than on diesel trains with no air pollutants at the point of use and less noise pollution.

Network Rail’s chief executive Andrew Haines welcomed the report, commenting: “The most recently completed schemes demonstrate that we’ve made good progress in reducing the cost of electrification.

“This report takes the debate forward, brings insight to the challenges and solutions for successful delivery and illustrates that we can sustain a hard-earned level of industry capability through efficient investment in electrification.”

Lilian Greenwood MP, chair of the Transport Select Committee, welcomed the report and encouraged support for a 10-year programme of rolling electrification, whilst Mark Gaynor of the Rail Delivery Group said the report was valuable in highlighting that electrification does not need to break the bank.

Image credit -  Danny Lawson/PA Archive/PA Images


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