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Electrification policy

Railfuture has long campaigned for extensions to the electrified rail network and warmly welcomes the Government’s decisions in 2013-14 to electrify many lines across the UK.
  1. Electrification is essential to reduce the cost of delivering rail services and to attract more passengers and freight to rail. Railfuture call for a rolling programme of electrification continuing from Control Period 5 into Control Period 6 and beyond, for the following reasons:
    • External factors make a rolling programme of electrification compelling. Chief among these is the rising price of oil, and the difficulty of securing reliable future supplies, plus the need to reduce carbon emissions, which the Government is pledged to do. Other benefits include improved energy efficiency and the ability to utilise renewable energy resources.
    • Economic benefits of electric trains compared to diesels include lower purchase cost, longer life, less maintenance needs, reduced operating costs, and lighter trains with resultant reduced track wear.
    • Electric trains have much better acceleration than diesels, easily climb gradients where diesel trains cannot match them, are quieter, non-polluting at point of use, perform more reliably, and are more attractive to passengers, producing what used to be commonly known as “the sparks effect”. Because of faster performance it is typical to replace diesel trains for a given service with a lesser number of electric trains.
    • Electrification will release diesel units in short supply needed elsewhere to deal with overcrowding.
  2. Priority for inclusion in the rolling programme should be given to strategic routes which enable through passenger and freight services between existing or already approved electrified networks (for example Sheffield to Moorthorpe, which would link MML electrification to the ECML at Leeds and Doncaster), and infill schemes which eliminate isolated diesel operations, releasing the maximum number of diesel vehicles per mile of track electrified (for example Hurst Green to Uckfield).
  3. Railfuture does not support extensive operation of diesel trains over electrified tracks for long distances, or for an entire journey where only a short section remains unelectrified. We support the use of hybrid trains such as IEP (which are heavier and more expensive to purchase and maintain than pure electric or diesel trains) to maintain through services, but only as a stop-gap; the unelectrified section should be electrified as soon as possible through the rolling programme and the hybrid trains cascaded to services over another unelectrified gap. There may be services where a change of locomotive traction from electric to diesel is feasible, as currently used on Scottish sleeper services.
  4. Rolling stock procurement and electrification plans are linked. A rolling programme of electrification provides more certainty in planning rolling stock acquisition and reduces purchase costs by giving manufacturers continuity. Many diesel units are nearly life expired or will need refurbishment to comply with RVA regulations and provide the environment now expected by passengers. It is increasingly difficult to acquire new diesel trains as European emission regulations become more stringent, ROSCOs lack certainty of a market for the life or the train, and manufacturers reduce their production-lines as other European railways increasingly order electric trains only. However Railfuture believes that a relatively small number of new diesel units should be ordered to meet the growth in demand which is currently outstripping the release of diesel trains from newly electrified services.

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