Freight train depot

Transport Decarbonisation Plan welcomed by rail industry

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed new plans and funding to improve the decarbonisation of all UK forms of public transport in a statement to Parliament, including a commitment to sustained rail electrification, backing of green rolling stock technology and further involvement of rail freight in decarbonisation efforts.

Cleaner transport across all modes is anticipated to create and support highly skilled jobs across the country, as well as ensuring the air our communities breathe is cleaner and safer.

In particular, there is focus to reduce the volume of diesel and petro heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) operating on UK roads, both through the phased withdrawal of the sale of these vehicles by 2040, as well as further support to encourage a shift of some goods onto less polluting rail freight services where suitable.

Much of that requires further investment, as does the improvement of the rail network’s electrification coverage.

There are intentions to create a net zero rail network by 2050, with further commitments in the new Transport Decarbonisation Plan to help facilitate achieving this goal.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Transport is not just how you get around. It is something that fundamentally shapes our towns, cities and countryside, our living standards and our health. It can shape all those things for good or for bad. Decarbonisation is not just some technocratic process. It’s about how we make sure that transport shapes quality of life and the economy in ways that are good.

“It’s not about stopping people doing things: it’s about doing the same things differently. We will still fly on holiday, but in more efficient aircraft, using sustainable fuel. We will still drive, but increasingly in zero emission cars.

“The Transport decarbonisation plan is just the start – we will need continued efforts and collaboration to deliver its ambitious commitments, which will ultimately create sustainable economic growth through healthier communities as we build back greener.”

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said: “It is really positive to see the Transport Decarbonisation Plan commit to a ‘cost-effective’ and ‘sustained’ programme of electrification, and to support the deployment of battery and hydrogen trains.

“It is also heartening to see the Government recognise the role that rail freight can play in cutting emissions, extending to freight the commitment to remove all diesel-only trains from the network by 2040. The Railway Industry Association and our members welcome the Government’s ambition on this.

“As Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said, the pace of change will be ‘unparalleled’, which we agree it will need to be. There is clearly plenty of work to do. With only 38% of the UK’s railway network currently electrified, compared to a target of electrifying the majority of the network as set out in the Transport Decarbonisation and Williams-Shapps plans, we cannot afford to delay work any longer.

“Every tonne of carbon which we start to save now will be almost 30 tonnes saved by 2050, supporting thousands of green jobs for the future. Rail suppliers await the details of which schemes will be given the green light and look forward to supporting a rolling programme of electrification.

“As our Rail Decarbonisation 21 campaign calls for, further electrification and fleet orders of battery and hydrogen trains is the best way to decarbonise the railway at good value for the taxpayer - supporting the Government’s ‘build back better’ agenda and helping the UK show genuine global leadership ahead of COP26 in November.”

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