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RIA calls on Shapps for urgent rail electrification

The Railway Industry Association and other representatives from across the industry such as Northern Rail Industry Leaders, Civil Engineering Contractors Association and Rail Freight Group, have today (Feb 19th) published an open letter to the Transport Secretary.

The letter is calling for a rolling programme of rail electrification if the government wishes to keep on track with its promise to deliver decarbonisation of the railway by 2040.

The letter explains that back in February 2018, the Government set a challenge to the rail industry to see how it could take diesel operated trains off the railways.  As the industry’s Decarbonisation Taskforce found, this will take a rolling programme of electrification for frequently used lines, and for regional and rural lines the expansion of new technologies such as hydrogen, battery and the use clean bimode and trimode trains, which the industry is ready to deliver.

The letter also outlines the benefits of electrified railways, such as they generate 60% less carbon emissions than diesel trains and 80% less with the estimated 2040 grid mix, and how they are the only option for decarbonising busy lines. They produce no air pollutants at the point of use and run quieter, reducing noise pollution for people who live and/or work near the tracks.

In comparison with diesels, electric trains also cost less in the long term when you compare the whole-life costs of diesel services, they are cheaper to build, more reliable, require less maintenance, and are cheaper to operator and longer-lasting.

Additionally, they are lighter meaning less wear to the track, they can carry more passengers and acceleration is better. They will also be significant in the decarbonisation of rail freight, which already produces low carbon emissions and delivers benefits in excess of £1.7bn each year to the economy.

This letter comes just a week after HS2 was given the green light by the Government, despite arguments which say the operation of HS2 will cause an increase in carbon emissions, which will progress into the 22nd century, without even taking into consideration the carbon emissions from simply building the new railway.

Other rail representatives that have supported the letter are Campaign for Better Transport, Campaign to Electrify Britain’s Railways, Electrical Contractors Association and Rail Forum Midlands.

Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association, Darren Caplan, said: “Kick-starting a programme of electrification on intensively-used rail is essential if the Government is serious about delivering on its goal to decarbonise UK rail by 2040. Not only are electrified trains key to decarbonisation, electrified tracks are more reliable, reduce costs in the long term and shorten journey times too.

“Research conducted by RIA has shown that the costs of electrification schemes can be lowered by up to 50% compared to some past projects, particularly if supported by a ‘rolling programme’ of work to avoid the expensive and inefficient ‘feast and famine’ approach to investment in the past.

“So, we urge the Transport Secretary to make this a top priority as the new Government develops its Infrastructure Strategy in the months ahead. Representative bodies covering businesses, passengers, freight, and community groups have today published an open letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, calling for him to kick-start an ambitious ‘rolling programme’ of rail electrification, if the Government wants to deliver on its aim of decarbonising UK rail by 2040.”


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