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Electrification

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Lowest cost and zero carbon

Reducing the cost of operating rail services and meeting the government's zero carbon objectives for transport require a sustainable rolling programme of electrification for Britain’s railways using a mix of technologies including overhead wiring, third rail, battery and hydrogen.

Although rail travel is reduced in the short term, modal shift to rail is essential to protect the environment and address social issues whilst growing our economy. The capacity of the rail network must be doubled to achieve this.

Transport Decarbonisation? Electric rail has the power to deliver

Images from DfT Transport Decarbonisation Plan On 14 July 2021 the government published its Transport Decarbonisation Plan, committing to a rolling programme of electrification and modal shift to rail. The strategy is excellent, but Great British Railways must now be funded on the basis of a costed rolling electrification plan and increased capacity to enable modal shift to rail, and mandated to deliver Year on Year Modal Shift to Rail targets. Images from DfT Transport Decarbonisation Plan.

Rail Decarb 21

Author: Chris Page - Published Thu 22 of Apr, 2021 08:00 BST - (2561 Reads)
An open letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, signed by more than 15 industry, business and campaign groups including Railfuture, urges the Government to begin an immediate programme of rail electrification now.

Project Speed

Author: Chris Page - Published Sun 27 of Sep, 2020 17:57 BST - (6508 Reads)
Thirteen programmes, with an emphasis on electrification, which Network Rail would progress urgently as part of the Project Speed initiative announced by the Prime Minister on 30 June 2020, have been revealed in the specialist rail media. Midland Main Line Upgrade. Image by Network Rail.

Electrification mix

Author: Ian Brown and Chris Page - Published Tue 28 of Jul, 2020 13:28 BST - (10286 Reads)
Reducing the cost of operating rail services and meeting the government's zero carbon objectives for transport require a sustainable electrification programme for Britain’s railways using a mix of technologies including overhead wiring, third rail, battery and hydrogen. Tyne and Wear Metro battery electric locomotive running under the wires at Whitley Bay.

Electric alternatives

Author: Chris Page - Published Sun 07 of Apr, 2019 18:40 BST - (9675 Reads)
The government cut electrification projects in favour of alternative technologies for rail traction but in response to the Transport Select Committee, the Rail Industry Association has published the Electrification Cost Challenge report showing that electrification costs could be cut by more than 50%. This briefing explains how the alternatives stack up. Proposed hydrogen-powered "Breeze" conversion of class 321. Image by Alstom.

Blueprint for the North

Author: Ian Brown CBE FCILT - Published Fri 11 of Jan, 2019 13:22 GMT - (7055 Reads)

The initial strategic challenge

Railfuture Policy Director Ian Brown contends that rail cannot make any meaningful contribution to growing the North’s economy, or even realise the benefits of new rolling stock and services about to be delivered, without investment in core routes and core stations to enable a further doubling of journeys over the next 15 years. Crowds on the only two through platforms at Manchester Piccadilly demonstrate the need for investment in extra capacity linking Chester, Liverpool, Preston, Manchester, Sheffield, Bradford, Leeds and Hull – photo by Maria Whelan, from Twitter.

UN Climate Change report

Author: Ian Brown - Published Wed 10 of Oct, 2018 21:12 BST - (4149 Reads)
Briefing by Ian Brown CBE FCILT, Railfuture Policy Director, on the effects of climate change and the need for investment in rail to provide sustainable transport which will help to reduce climate change. Image by iStock.

Riding sunbeams

Author: Chris Page - Published Mon 12 of Mar, 2018 16:57 GMT - (5024 Reads)
10:10, the climate change charity, is working with the Energy Futures Lab at Imperial College, London, to develop a viable solution for solar-powered railways. The graphic by 10:10 Climate Action illustrates the principle. It is ironic that the artist has depicted a diesel unit but we like the picture so used it anyway.

Why wiring went wrong

Author: Jerry Alderson (Source: Phil Smart) - Published Sat 09 of Sep, 2017 20:40 BST - (6424 Reads)
Railfuture has long campaigned for much of Britain’s railway to be electrified, not as an end in itself but because of the benefits it can bring to passengers (and also freight users). Electrification fell out of favour in the early 1990s but came back around 2009 partly thanks to the lobbying of Railfuture’s distinguished Vice President Adrian Shooter. However, Network Rail’s inability to deliver the government’s challenging programme of electrification, not least because vital skills and experience including project management had been lost, is a major set-back. Electrifying the Gospel Oak to Barking line has been a Railfuture aspiration for a long time. Pictured above is a stanchion minus overhead wires at South Tottenham station on the GOBLIN line, where the electrification work overran. Photo by Jerry Alderson.

Why electrify?

Author: Chris Page - Published Thu 31 of Aug, 2017 18:58 BST - (6872 Reads)
On 20 July 2017, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling shocked rail campaigners and stakeholders by announcing that planned electrification of the Midland Main Line north of Kettering, the Great Western Main Line west of Cardiff, and Oxenholme to Windermere is cancelled. Photo Network Rail.

Fixing Network Rail

Author: Chris Page - Published Mon 05 of Dec, 2016 18:27 GMT - (7641 Reads)
Britain needs to invest in its transport infrastructure to promote economic growth, but further electrification delays show that Network Rail does not have the capability to deliver its expansion programme in the timescale needed. Railfuture analyses the cause of the problems at Network Rail and suggests a way forward.

Electric trains are cheaper to operate than diesel - the purchase costs are lower, they are more energy-efficient, more reliable, and cost less to maintain. They produce less pollution than all the alternative forms of traction, and offer the possibility of zero emissions if electricity is generated sustainably. Electrification is the only way to provide the additional capacity needed to accommodate rail travel growth without increasing operating costs and therefore requiring government subsidy.

Electrification programme

Progress on electrification has almost stopped. A rolling programme of incremental electrification projects, at a level which the industry can resource, is essential for Network Rail to build the electrification skills and experience needed to reduce the capital cost to viable levels. This should focus on intensively used or high speed routes where the journey time savings, increased reliability, lower operating costs and reduced emissions will justify the capital spend.

The alternatives to full electrification have a place on lightly used routes where electrification is not financially justified – see our analysis of the electric alternatives.

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