Posted 27th July 2021 | 4 Comments

House of Lords committee calls for 'accelerated electrification'

A NEW report from the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee published today is calling for railway electrification to be speeded up.

Its inquiry had concerned batteries and hydrogen as sources of energy, and the resulting report – 'Battery strategy goes flat: net zero target at risk' – warns that 'changing from our current dependence on fossil fuels will be a significant undertaking'. 

It continues: 'Electric trains have proven performance, and their main advantage is their lighter weight because they do not carry fuel or batteries. Where electrification is uneconomical, trains would be powered by batteries or hydrogen fuel cells. This would include routes with limited usage and routes that are otherwise electrified but have sections where that is too expensive. Electrification will need to be extensive enough such that the remaining sections are manageable for batteries or fuel cells.'

The Committee felt that Britain's railways have some catching-up to do, and concluded: 'The Government must ensure that the railway electrification programme is accelerated in order that it reaches as far as is economically and technically feasible by 2040, when diesel trains will be phased out. The development of battery and fuel cell trains should be supported to serve those parts of the network that remain non-electrified.'

These findings have been supported by the Railway Industry Association, which gave evidence to the Lords' inquiry.

RIA technical director David Clarke said: 'It is good to see the Committee backing the asks of RIA’s Rail Decarbonisation 21 campaign, which is calling for Government to commit to a rolling programme of electrification and fleet orders of battery and hydrogen rolling stock – in line with the Transport Decarbonisation Plan – before COP26 in November. 

'This is now the third parliamentary committee to back the recommendations of RIA’s campaign, showing a head of steam amongst policy makers to deliver a clean, environmentally friendly, low carbon rail network. We look forward to working with Peers from across the political spectrum, and the Government, to support the Committee’s findings.'

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • John Gilbert, Cradley

    After a plethora of reports ALL saying that a RAPID advance in rail electrification must start NOW in England, it is followed by a deathly silence or prevarication on the part of our Cabinet politicians. Thus it is clear that they find it totally impossible mentally to even contemplate erecting wires in this country. A mental block at both Transport and, especially, The Treasury you may say, and who am, I to disagree. So what is to be done? These people are clearly not doing their duty by the people of England. (Scotland is doing well, and, to a lesser extent Wales; they have a degree of freedom from the dead hand of Westminster.)

  • Gregory Tingey, London

    Ah, but DfT & the Treasury are far more interested in electric roads & the latest version of "Bionic Duckweed", namely Hydrogen Vapourware to actually put the knitting up!

  • JasonLeahy, london

    The plan is that all diesel trains won't be phased out in 2040 but in 2050, diesel only trains in 2040, so hybrids and bi-mode trains will still be allowed for a decade, however I don't see why it will take 19 years to add batteries to every diesel train when British Rail replaced more steam engines after the 1954 Modernisation Plan and a Government White Paper in 1956 and by 1968. Even I was confused when Hitachi claimed it could replace the diesel engines of London to Penzance hybrid/bi-mode trains in the late 2040s when it thinks batteries should be good enough. Another similar mistake is authors and people claiming that the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars will be banned in 2030, hybrids cars in 2035.

  • Alastair Brown, Rutherglen,GLASGOW

    Couldn't help smiling at the use of "head of steam" in this piece about decarbonisation.
    [Not our use, though. It is part of a quote -- and quotes are sacred!--Ed.]