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railway electrification

Railway electrification needed to meet zero carbon goals

The UK needs “a rolling programme of electrification” for its railways if the Government wants to meet net zero carbon targets for 2050, the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) has said.

Electric upgrades to lines have been occurring at a slow pace over the last decade, and more ambitious plans for the North were scrapped in 2017 after other projects went overbudget and took longer than anticipated.

Recent data published by rail regulator the Office of Rail and Road shows 251km of track was electrified in the year to March 31, due to work on the Great Western and West Anglia lines.

But this means that just 38 per cent of the 6050km network is currently electrified with some 648 million litres of diesel used by passenger and freight trains in 2019-2020.

Paul Tuohy, CBT chief executive, said: “It’s great to see rail lines being electrified and new stations opened, but now we need to step up our game. Only 38 per cent of the railway is electrified: we need a rolling programme of electrification to meet the Government’s net zero targets. And too many communities are unable to access the rail network: new or reopened rail lines and stations could transform these places.”

“Now more than ever, we need investment in rail infrastructure - not just to enable more sustainable travel, but to create jobs, tackle social exclusion and help the economy to recover.”

Running trains with electricity can cut CO2 emissions, boost journey times and reduce maintenance costs, compared with diesel.

Earlier this year, a technological stopgap solution was proposed by Hitachi Rail that would see trains upgraded with batteries that would allow them to run on electric power when using lines that had not yet undergone electrification.

The batteries would be charged while connected to the electric lines and Hitachi believes they could be fitted to over 400 trains in the UK.

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