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Electrification policy

Electrification is essential to reduce the cost of delivering rail services whilst providing the additional capacity needed to accommodate rail travel growth and attract more passengers and freight to rail.
  1. Railfuture calls for a rolling programme of electrification, for the following reasons:
    • Electric trains produce less pollution than all the alternative forms of traction, and offer the possibility of zero emissions if electricity is generated sustainably.
    • Electric trains are cheaper to operate than diesel - the purchase costs are lower, they are more energy-efficient, more reliable, have a longer life, and cost less to maintain - both for train and track.
    • 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 isolates rail transport from the price of oil and the potential difficulty of securing reliable future supplies.
    • Electric trains have much better acceleration than diesels, easily climb gradients where diesel trains cannot match them, are quieter, are non-polluting at the point of use, perform more reliably, and so are more attractive to passengers.
    • A rolling programme is essential for Network Rail to build the electrification skills and experience needed to implement electrification efficiently at an acceptable level of capital cost.
  2. Priority for inclusion in the rolling programme should be given to 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, and infill schemes which eliminate isolated diesel operations, releasing the maximum number of diesel vehicles per mile of track electrified.
  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 bi-mode trains (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 bi-mode trains cascaded to services over another unelectrified gap.
  4. The alternatives to electrification, for example battery-electric or hydrogen powered trains, have a place on lightly used routes where electrification is not financially justified, although diesel hybrid trains may offer both lower costs and emissions until the mix of electric generation capacity becomes more sustainable.
  5. 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.

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