RIA: The UK is electrifying its railway at less than half the rate needed to decarbonise by 2050

14 October 2021

New data has been published from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) showing that the UK is not electrifying its railways quick enough to meet Net Zero by 2050.

The statistical release shows that in 2020-21, 179 track kilometres were electrified, less than half the 448 kilometres required each year to meet Network Rail’s target of a Net Zero railway by 2050.

David Clarke, Technical Director of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), who authored the Electrification Cost Challenge Report in 2019, said: “New data published today shows that the UK electrified some 179 track kilometres in 2020-21, mostly on completing the Midland Mainline upgrade between Bedford and Corby. Yet, according to Network Rail’s Decarbonisation Strategy, we need to deliver 13,000 kilometres of electrification by 2050, meaning we need to be electrifying around 400 kilometres a year, more than double the rate we’re currently doing. And what’s more, with no major schemes coming down the line, we can reasonably expect that there will be less work, not more, in the coming year.

“The Railway Industry Association has long called for a sustainable, cost-effective programme of electrification, alongside support for battery and hydrogen powered trains, in order to meet the Government’s Net Zero target by 2050 - an approach which was endorsed in the Government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan in July. Yet, at the current rate, we are unlikely to meet that target. Crucially, the industry is also losing expertise and capabilities whilst schemes are stalled, meaning it will be harder to deliver the considerable amount of work needed if and when new projects are started.

“We need to get a programme of electrification work underway today, so we can decarbonise the network, bring greater benefits to passengers and freight user, and support the UK economy as we look to ‘build back better’.”

Notes to Editors

 

  1. The ORR's Statistical release can be found here

  2.  Network Rail's Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy (available here) sets out that 13,000km of railway line needs to be electrified by 2050. Between 2021 and 2050, that means that 448km will need to be electrified each year.

  3. The Government's Transport Decarbonisation Plan (available here) was published in July and said: "we will deliver an ambitious, sustainable, and cost-effective programme of electrification guided by Network Rail’s Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy".

  4. RIA's Electrification Cost Challenge report (available here) shows that electrification schemes can be delivered at up to half the cost of some past problem projects.

  5. RIA's RailDecarb21 campaign has been calling for a specific commitment to decarbonise the rail network from Government, through further electrification work and fleet orders of low carbon, self-powered rolling stock, ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) taking place in Glasgow in November 2021. Read more here

  6.  About RIA: The Railway Industry Association (RIA) is the voice of the UK rail supply community. We help to grow a sustainable, high-performing, railway supply industry, and to export UK rail expertise and products. RIA has 300+ companies in membership in a sector that contributes £43 billion in economic growth and £14 billion in tax revenue each year, as well as employing 710,000 people. It is also a vital industry for the UK’s economic recovery, supporting green investment and jobs in towns and communities across the UK; for every £1 spent in rail, £2.50 is generated in the wider economy. RIA’s membership is active across the whole of railway supply, covering a diverse range of products and services and including both multi-national companies and SMEs (60% by number). www.riagb.org.uk

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