The railway industry has written to transport secretary Grant Shapps calling for the government to begin a constant process of electrifying the UK’s rail networks or risk missing its 2040 decarbonisation goal.
The open letter notes that although electrification is the only means to meet the target, once the Midlands mainline has been electrified, there will be no other such schemes taking place in the UK.
The result of this, it says, will be a “significant hiatus before new projects are ready for construction”, which could lead to a loss of capability and skills.
The letter, which is signed by groups including the Railway Industry Association (RIA), Northern Rail Industry Leaders, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association and the Rail Freight Group, adds that “the stop-start nature of electrification is one of the key factors in cost increases”.
In order to continue working, the group asks that a ringfenced fund be provided to allow electrification work to go ahead.
“Delivery of electrification cannot wait until the next rail funding cycle ‘control period seven’”, it concludes.
The RIA’s chief executive Darren Caplan said that a rolling programme could lower the costs of electrification schemes up to 50 per cent compared to past projects:
“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”.
The UK lags behind its continental counterparts in terms of electrification, with almost a third of its trains still powered by diesel.
Delays in completing electrification projects were also blamed for contributing to the renationalisation of Northern Rail, which had been hit by stalled infrastructure projects.
Responding to the letter, a Department for Transport spokesperson said “this government has set the bold target of being net zero by 2050 and we are working tirelessly to cut emissions across every single mode of transport.
“Rail electrification is key to this strategy. We are working with industry and communities around the country to build a green economy – and the UK’s first Transport Decarbonisation Plan will set out a bold and ambitious programme of co-ordinated action needed to end the UK’s transport emissions by 2050”.