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A lower cost, higher performing net-zero railway

11 April 2024  

Key Messages 

  1.  A plausible, affordable and deliverable integrated ‘track and train’ plan building on current plans which reduces the long-term cost of running the railway. 
  2.  An agile plan which can adapt to changes including demand growth. 
  3.  A plan of thirds:
    - Over one third of the network (38%) is already electrified. 
    One third (34%) of the network does not need to be electrified and can be decarbonised now with battery trains with lower life cycle costs.
    – The remaining third (28%) of the network needs to be electrified by 2050 to reach net zero. However, half of that (13%) is already in Government plans therefore only 15% additional electrification is needed.
  4. Decarbonise 100% of passenger and 95% of freight by 2050 by sustaining the rate of electrification currently planned.
  5. No need for significant new public funding in the next decade.
  6. A credible approach to reducing cost by breaking the cycle of ‘boom and bust’ in infrastructure and rolling stock.
  7. A cross industry collaboration to further develop the plan for the ‘guiding mind’ (i.e. Great British Railways) to implement.

Key Recommendations 

  1. Urgently convert current and expected GB rolling stock opportunities identified by DfT into orders to address current order book gap. 
  2. To the extent they are not included in Recommendation 1.1, urgently consider the balance of the approximately 1100 sub-100mph Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) which will be 35 years old by 2030 and replace them with Battery Electric Multiple Units (BEMUs). This action alone will decarbonise 34% of the GB network.
  3. Empower a cross industry group to further develop and test the RIA strategy and confirm the minimum additional electrification to deliver net zero for passengers and freight by 2050. This ‘rail-plan’ should be published to provide clarity to railway planners and investors.
  4.  Given their value as an interim carbon reduction measure, it is recommended DfT reconsider the policy that rail should not be prioritised for the use of alternative fuels and consider a subsidy to achieve cost parity with diesel fuel.
  5. The rail reform process should create a role for Great British Railways to consider the long-term rolling stock needs of the network and the sustainability of the supply chain, creating a strategy, including for example framework orders, with the objective to intelligently smooth the pipeline.
  6. Empower GBRTT to work with industry to prepare and GBR to deliver a strategy which will:
    ● Deliver a lower cost, higher performing, net zero railway for passenger and freight by 2050 (Section 3.5 and Recommendation 2)
    ● Adopt an agile approach to track and train system thinking to intelligently smooth fleet in response to demand growth 
    ● Adopt a portfolio rather than project by project approach.
    ● Balance when making decisions:
    – Cumulative carbon reduction and air quality improvement for the earliest possible environmental and health benefits (Section 3.7), facilitated by interim solutions including, but not limited to, alternative fuels and rolling stock cascade.
    – A whole system / whole life TOTEX evaluation (Section 3.9)
    – Wider economic and social benefits including the sustainability of the supply chain and the potential to use private finance to improve affordability.
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