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Taskforce calls for net zero carbon railway

Photo: Diesel challenge: loco No 37418 heads TfW's 17.01 service to Rhymney as it arrives in Cardiff Central on 4 July 2019. The loco-hauled set has been introduced to cover for a shortage of DMUs.


The railway should aim for net zero carbon by 2050, according to the final report of the Rail Industry Decarbonisation Taskforce.

Chaired by former Angel Trains managing director Malcolm Brown, the taskforce was set up in response to then Rail Minister Jo Johnson’s challenge to remove all diesel-only trains from the network by 2040. In a follow-up to its initial report released earlier this year, the taskforce suggests the industry go beyond the original aim of an 80% reduction in carbon emissions and instead target net zero carbon emissions.

Electric traction remains the solution offering the lowest whole life carbon impact on intensively used routes, but on quieter lines may not be justified, the taskforce suggests. Where electrification is not appropriate, battery and hydrogen are considered the only technologies likely to be readily available in the time period under consideration. However, the report notes there are no obvious alternatives to diesel for freight other than electrification and suggests freight and yellow plant are the only places where there is a case for continued use of diesel in the long-term.

In its recommendations, the taskforce calls for Government to set targets for the railway in respect of decarbonisation along with a clear policy position defining the expectation of rail in delivering net zero carbon. It suggests the Williams Review should ensure the industry’s future structure enables and incentivises the move to net zero carbon and says the industry should work out a clear delivery plan and a research plan to achieve the agreed target.

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