Government urged to kickstart rail electrification

Representative bodies covering businesses, passengers, freight and community groups have written to Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, calling for action on rail electrification.

In an open letter published on 18 February, the bodies called for a ring-fenced “rolling programme” fund to end the “stop-start” nature of past electrification schemes and allow the rail industry to extend electrified track over several years. Such a programme will be key to the government delivering on its target of decarbonising UK rail by 2040. The bodies urged the government to act before current electrification schemes are completed as, without any other projects to move onto, many skills and expertise risk being lost.

The letter set out benefits of electrified railways as including 60% lower carbon emissions compared to diesel trains today, rising to 80% with the 2040 grid mix, along with electrified railways being the only option for decarbonising intensively used lines. Other advantages include that electrified railways produce no air pollutants at point of use, reduce noise pollution and will prove vital in decarbonising rail freight, already a low carbon mode of haulage and delivering benefits in excess of £1.7bn each year to the economy.

Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), Darren Caplan said: “Research conducted by RIA has shown that the costs of electrification schemes can be lowered by up to 50% compared to some past projects, particularly if supported by a “rolling programme” of work to avoid the expensive and inefficient ‘feast and famine’ approach to investment in the past. So, we urge the Transport Secretary to make this a top priority as the new Government develops its Infrastructure Strategy in the months ahead.”