Posted 18th May 2009 | 11 Comments
Network Rail proposes major electrification programme
Relative carbon performance — rail beats most other modes
ELECTRIFICATION of the Great Western main line to Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea, and of the Midland main line to Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield — followed by electric coverage of many more routes — is the central feature of a new long-term strategy proposed by Network Rail.
The £16 billion Crossrail project, which kicked off on 14 May, is seen as the likely springboard for a rolling programme of converting many routes from diesel to electric traction, starting with the Great Western route.
In an introduction to Network Rail’s consultation document, chief executive Iain Coucher says: “Our analysis shows the long-term benefits of electrifying key parts of the network in terms of both reducing its ongoing cost to the country and improving its environmental performance are significant.
“Governments in London, Edinburgh and Cardiff are looking to reduce both the operational cost of the railway and overall carbon emissions, as well as encouraging modal shift. Our analysis identifies the benefits a strategic approach to electrification would bring in each of these areas.”
In England and Wales, two options in particular – the Great Western and Midland Main Lines – are shown to have high benefit to cost ratios, says Mr Coucher, while in Scotland the main focus would be on electrification between Edinburgh and Glasgow via Falkirk, and an extension to Dunblane and Alloa.
In its draft electrification strategy — on which comments are invited before 14 July — Network Rail points out that only 40 per cent of the existing rail network is electrified and several main lines, much of the cross country network, many key freight links and diversionary routes remain unelectrified.
“As a consequence, a significant proportion of passengers and the majority of freight are carried by diesel operation which is more costly and produces more pollution than its electric equivalent.”
However, NR says that electrification has the potential to reduce ‘whole industry costs.’
“Compared to a diesel operation, an electric service will have lower rolling stock operating costs (fuel savings currently estimated as between 19 and 26 pence lower per vehicle mile and maintenance costs at approximately 20 pence less per vehicle mile for passenger vehicles), have higher levels of vehicle reliability and availability and lower leasing costs.
“The superior performance of electric vehicles can provide journey time savings. Whilst these may be modest for high speed long distance services, they can be more significant in urban areas where frequent stops make acceleration savings more significant and, if the savings are significant on a particular route, diagrams [number of trains in operation] could be saved.”
Following earlier reports that Network Rail is planning ‘factory trains’ to carry out the installation of electrification infrastructure, Mr Coucher added: “Our plans to develop an engineering method that can install power lines quickly, and efficiently, without disrupting services and at a cost that is affordable are already at an advanced stage."
Reducing carbon emissions
Electrification also has a significant role to play in reducing carbon emissions, according to NR. “Electric vehicles, on average, emit 20 per cent to 30 per cent less CO2 emissions than their diesel counterparts.”
Electric traction also has benefits in coping with future demand growth. “Electric trains have more seats than diesel loco hauled trains, making a greater
contribution to accommodating anticipated growth in demand,” says NR.
For freight trains, increased power can mean use of passing loops may be avoided, and electrification can offer “potential for freight operators to provide a superior product, potentially with lower operating costs. The ability of freight operators to do this potentially increases as more of the network is electrified.”
Network Rail also envisages that infill electrification would enable cost savings to be achieved on some routes for operators with existing electric locos, as well as potentially increasing the availability of diversionary routes for electric vehicles, reducing the need for passenger services bus substitutions, improving the freight product and easing the provision of access for maintenance work.
The infrastructure company says that its appraisal of options has shown “further
electrification represents good value for money.”
“Two options – the Great Western Main Line and the Midland Main Line – have high benefit to cost ratios. Indeed they potentially involve a net industry cost saving rather than net cost over the appraisal period of 60 years.
“There would be a requirement for upfront investment by Network Rail but this would be offset by lifetime cost savings, largely in the costs of train operation.
“Electrification of the London to Maidenhead section of the Great Western Main Line as part of the Crossrail project will present an opportunity to ramp up production and to start using the recommended efficient delivery techniques,
“These options, along with a strategic infill scheme – Gospel Oak to Woodgrange Park and the Thameshaven branch – with the best business case are presented as the potential Core Strategy for England and Wales and will be discussed further with the Department for Transport.”
In Scotland, the strategy would start with electrification from Edinburgh to Glasgow via Falkirk and be extended to Dunblane and Alloa, and to allow Glasgow to Falkirk and Motherwell to Cumbernauld services to run under electric
Looking to how an electrification programme could go ahead, Network Rail recommends that funding for early implementation of strategic infill electrification schemes should be sought from a variety of sources.
“Active provision will be made to ensure that current investment programmes will be consistent with a programme of electrification. This would include all works for both physical clearance and electrical immunization,” adds the company.
ATOC calls for early decision
The Association of Train Operating Companies called for an early Government decision.
“Now that Network Rail has published its strategy, the Government should honour the commitment it made in January to make a decision, by giving the green light to electrifying the Great Western and Midland Main Lines,” said Michael Roberts, ATOC’s chief executive.
He added: “As these are long term projects, we must start planning now so that electrification can unlock the major modernisation of important long distance routes
“It is also important to press ahead in the shorter term with smaller infill schemes which can plug some of the gaps in the electrified network. This will prepare the way for more substantial investment in main line electrification after 2014 by allowing electric fleets to be used more effectively.”
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