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Biggest electrification of the rail network for a generation will cut carbon emissions

Elaine Brass
24th July 2009
The Government has announced that work will start immediately on a £1.1 billion electrification of the rail network that it claims will cut carbon emissions and boost the economy.
In the first big electrification of the rail network since the late 1980s, the upgrade will cover the London to Swansea and Liverpool to Manchester networks and will mean that Wales will have its first electric main line trains.

According to the Government, electrified tracks are preferable to diesel in many ways; as well as being faster, quieter and more reliable, electric trains produce less CO2 and emit no track side air pollution. Electric trains are also cheaper to buy and operate and are more cost-effective for carrying freight loads.

However, although electric trains may have zero emissions at point of use and emit between 20 per cent and 35 per cent less carbon per passenger mile than a diesel train, this will only improve as the electricity generation industry reduces its own carbon levels.

Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis said: “It is essential that we invest in our railways now and over the longer term. This is the biggest electrification programme for a generation and a vital part of our rail investment and carbon reduction strategies. It will be of huge benefit to passengers who will gain from faster, cleaner and more reliable trains."

The electrification of the Liverpool-Manchester routes is expected to be completed within four years and for London-Swansea within eight years. The Great Western electrification will include the lines to Oxford and Newbury, making possible the direct replacement of the ageing Intercity 125 fleet by electric Super Express intercity trains, and by hybrid diesel/ electric Super Express trains to serve destinations beyond the electrified network. This, and other replacements of diesel by electric trains, should yield significant savings in train leasing and operating costs, as well as, the DfT hopes, benefiting passengers with more reliable and quieter trains.

The Government also claims that the electrification programme will boost hundreds of jobs across the country and should pay for itself over the long-term through lower train leasing, maintenance and operating costs.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “To build a better Britain, we must be bold, innovative and forward-looking and invest with confidence in our country’s transport infrastructure, jobs and industry. This electrification programme is vital to building a 21st century transport system.”

Biggest electrification of the rail network for a generation will cut carbon emissions
London to Swansea and Liverpool to Manchester rail lines are to be electrified
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