Thursday 14 March 2019 12:22 am

Government must change policy on rail electrification or risk missing climate change targets, industry body warns

The national body for Britain’s railways has warned the government could miss its targets of decarbonising train travel by 2040 unless it changes its policy on electrification.

The Railway Industry Association (RIA) called on the government to collaborate with the rail industry and commit to electrification after several projects were cancelled in 2017.

The association said its research suggests railways could be electrified at between a third and half of the cost for past projects, such as the route from London to Swansea in 2009, if the government commits to a rolling programme of work.

Technical director David Clarke said electrification needs to been seen as the main priority in a “hierarchy of options” if the government is serious about decarbonising.

“The lessons from previous projects … are clear but we should stop using these projects as a benchmark for the cost of future schemes. Instead, we urge government to work closely with RIA and rail businesses … to revise its policy on electrification where it is the right long-term solution,” Clarke said.

He added: “Only by doing so will we be able to decarbonise the rail network by 2040, and deliver a cleaner and more cost-effective railway network.”

Network Rail’s chief executive Andrew Haines said good progress has been made to reduce the cost of electrification projects.

Around 40 per cent of the UK’s rail network is electrified, much less than comparable European countries which average around 60 per cent, a report from the RIA said.

It can deliver 60 per cent lower carbon emissions with today’s energy mix, and 80 per cent lower by 2040. Electrification also fights noise pollution and speeds up trains as they accelerate quicker and brake better.

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “Electrification projects have previously proven highly disruptive and costly. We are committed to electrification where it delivers benefits for passengers and value for money, and are also focused on taking advantage of new technology, including bi-mode, hydrogen and battery technology trains.

“The decisions we have made mean that passengers will benefit from faster journeys on better quality trains sooner, and with less disruption, compared with putting up intrusive wires and masts.”