UK: Emphasising the need to meet the government’s legally binding Net Zero commitments, 17 rail business, industry and campaign groups have issued an open letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps calling for a comprehensive programme of railway electrification to begin as soon as possible.

The letter was accompanied by the release on April 22 of a report entitled Why Rail Electrification? Drawn up by experts from the Railway Industry Association and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, this explains why significant further electrification is needed to decarbonise the rail network, even with the development of clean technologies such as battery and hydrogen trains.


RIA notes that rail is already a low carbon mode, accounting for just 1·4% of UK transport emissions, but it points out that the industry will need to decarbonise further in order to achieve the government’s objective of removing all diesel-only trains by 2040 or the legally binding commitment to Net Zero by 2050.

Network Rail’s interim Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy published last year recommended the electrification of 13 000 single track-km by 2050, at an average rate of around 450 km a year. However, only 251 km was electrified in 2019-20, and no major schemes have since been authorised.


‘A rolling programme of electrification needs to start now if the government is to hit its Net Zero obligations, and if the railway industry is not to lose capability and expertise from the current hiatus in activity’, explained RIA Chief Executive Darren Caplan. Noting that RIA’s RailDecarb21 campaign is ‘calling on the government to support efforts to decarbonise the rail network ahead of the COP26 Conference in Glasgow later this year’, he said the report ‘clearly shows the rail industry will be unable to decarbonise the network without a rolling programme of electrification.

‘As RIA has demonstrated in recent work, electrification in the UK can be delivered affordably, at up to 50% the cost of some past projects, if there is a long-term, consistent, profile of work rather than the current situation of boom and bust. By committing to electrification immediately, UK rail could be a world leader, creating and sustaining green jobs, investment and economic growth at a critical time as we all seek to build out of the coronavirus pandemic.’


Signatories to the open letter

Campaign for Better Transport
Campaign to Electrify Britain’s Railway
Civil Engineering Contractors Association
Electrical Contractors’ Association
Institution of Mechanical Engineers
Logistics UK
National Skills Academy for Rail
Northern Rail Industry Leaders
Permanent Way Institution
Rail Alliance
Rail Delivery Group
Rail Forum Midlands
Rail Freight Group
Railway Industry Association
Urban Transport Group

Supporting documents

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