Press release 16th July 2021

Transport Decarbonisation? Electric rail has the power to deliver

Rail campaigners have given a cautious welcome to the government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan. “It seems like good news, with talk of a sustainable programme of electrification and encouraging modal shift to rail” said Railfuture director Ian Brown. “The plan has a target date of 2050 for decarbonisation, but at the same time it recognises that it needs to be achieved sooner than that. The problem is that rail is playing catch-up. We need to see targets for a year-on-year modal shift to rail, but the document says that Great British Railways is being created to do this - over to you! GBR now needs to be funded on the basis of a costed plan to achieve these objectives for rail. The plan needs to be continuous with modal shift targets towards rail and investments every year until 2050 to make this happen.”

“The document recognises that rail represents 10% of the market, important but not in itself sufficient to remedy the carbon issue. The key reason why rail is potentially far more significant is the potential for modal shift to rail, as we in Railfuture have argued for some time. It requires capital investment in capacity, a key Railfuture argument, particularly in electrification and other non-carbon technologies. The government appears to have adopted the Railfuture rail agenda, which is good news.”

“The document focuses more on roads and aviation than rail, and there’s been a lot of research in these sectors. The lack of such a research track record in the rail sector and any commitment to future funding is a major impediment to rail, although there are clear signs that given the size of the rail equipment market that commercial research and innovation is accelerating.”

“There’s a danger that this is the age-old story with so many government announcements. We can have reviews and strategies and plans and commitments until we’re blue in the face. What we need are decisions. Air travel has some serious targets as does automotive, but major changes to the road building programme will be necessary if this is serious. Where is the commitment to build up an electrification workforce to work on a rolling programme? Will the Treasury support the investment needed? There’s the usual risk of the report being quietly filed away with no decisions made.”

Notes to editors:

Railfuture is the UK's leading independent organisation campaigning for better rail services for both passengers and freight.

Railfuture's website can be found at: www.railfuture.org.uk and our campaign at Electrification

DfT Transport Decarbonisation Plan

DfT Rail environment policy statement

Follow Railfuture on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Railfuture

For further information and comment please contact:

Bruce Williamson, media spokesman
Tel: 0117 927 2954 Mobile: 07759 557389
media at railfuture.org.uk