According to a report, published by Rail Industry Decarbonisation Task Force and rail body RSSB, the UK industry and government can deliver a step change in rail’s emissions by removing diesel trains from the passenger network.
Work should start on identifying levels of investment, timescales and key decision points over the next 30 years, empowered by the right structures, frameworks and policies, and enabled by a full programme of R&D in support.
“We now have practical next steps which will see the rail industry playing its full part, as we push towards the UK’s target of greenhouse gas emissions being net zero by 2050,’ Rail Minister Andrew Jones said.
Battery, hydrogen and electrification will all have a key role to play, according to leading experts in sustainability and rolling stock. Over 3,000 carriages or vehicles used in diesel passenger trains will need to be replaced or converted in the years ahead, many of which are approaching their end of life. Electrification of key routes is likely to be the most cost-effective option for some of these vehicles, particularly for the higher speed intercity trains. Depending on the extent of electrification, as many as 2,400 vehicles could use alternative low-carbon traction options such as hydrogen and battery technology.
In 2018, the Department for Transport set a challenge for rail to remove diesel-only trains and asked for a decarbonisation plan. The Task Force has responded identifying the potential for significant decarbonisation of rail and making recommendations to put this into action providing more certainty earlier, and giving more time to plan, be more cost-effective and least disruptive.
Despite making up around 10% of all distance travelled across the UK, rail is responsible for less than 2.5% of total transport emissions and about 0.6% of the UK’s total emissions.