MP’s call for immediate start of 30-year rail electrification plan

MP’s on the Transport Select Committee have argued that the government should commit and start implementing its electrification projects over the next three decades, if it is to succeed in decarbonising the rail network.

With still 62% of the rail network still running on diesel and government aims to fully decarbonize the industry and the rest of UK by 2050.

Committee Chair Huw Merriman called the plans “patchy” and said “It’s time to invest in a rolling programme which will speed up delivery, drive down costs and hold to account those who do not deliver to time or budget”.

Rail is a naturally low-carbon transport mode, comprising less than 2.5% of total transport emissions and only about 0.6% of the UK’s total emissions. However there have been a warning that its failure to solve the problem would drive more freight back onto the country’s roads.

Industry groups like the Railway industry Association (RIA) agreed and think the process of electrification should start immediately, RIA technical director David Clarke said: “We need to get on with decarbonizing our rail network today if we are to meet the Government’s target of Net Zero by 2050”

“That means starting a rolling programme of affordable electrification that avoids the ‘boom and bust’ profiles of the past, thereby allowing the rail industry to continue to retain and develop expertise and capabilities so that it can deliver efficiently and affordably”

“We also need to see fleet orders of battery and hydrogen trains, which the industry is now developed enough to deliver, so that we can decarbonise branch lines around the country, placing the UK at the forefront of the global green industrial revolution.”

However, with government plans to start the process in 2024, there is an an atmosphere and feeling that the window for these radical changes might be too small, though the UK become the first major economy to pass net zero emissions laws back in June 2019.

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