UK: Government Policy Crucial for Rail Network Decarbonisation

The correct government policy environment is crucial to the successful decarbonisation of the rail network.

According to a detailed report by Transport Britain,this is the the opinion of the Railway Industry Association (RIA) – the UK leading voice for the rail supply community – in its proposals submitted to the Transport Select Committee ‘trains fit for the future’ inquiry.

Launched by the Committee’s Chair, Lilian Greenwood MP, the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry is looking at the costs and benefits to the rail sector of moving away from diesel powered trains towards more environmentally friendly alternatives.

In its initial reaction, the RIA called for a focus on decarbonisation in the inquiry.

And now, its official submission calls for combining the best of new and proven technology as a way to reduce long term costs of the network.

The RIA say that decisions are required regarding replacing the oldest existing diesel fleet, creating an opportunity to introduce new technology, and ultimately stimulating the UK train building industry.

Recommendations include a rolling programme of electrification and smoothing new rolling stock orders to ensure suppliers don’t experience large peaks in work, followed by sharp falls.

But government policy is vital if alternatively fuelled trains are to become widespread on the network, delivering decarbonisation.

David Clarke, Technical Director at the RIA, said: “Crucially, the rail industry needs the right policy environment to replace diesel passenger trains with those that use electricity, hydrogen or batteries.

“To do so, the government need to understand that different parts of our rail network will need different solutions.

“For intensively used lines, electrification is the optimal solution, whilst for routes with lower traffic levels, new technologies like hydrogen and batteries have a role to play.”

Damien Testa, Senior Policy Manager at the Association, reiterated the need for clear government policy.

“It is vital that we work with government to deliver a balanced train fleet policy that recognises that trains have around a 30 – 35 year life and that will give the supply chain the confidence to continue to invest in new vehicles, whilst also maintaining and improving existing trains.”

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