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Task force: rail can help UK meet 2050 net-zero carbon target

Britain’s railway companies could play a crucial role in helping the UK meet its new 2050 net-zero carbon target, according to a report.

The report published by the Rail Industry Decarbonisation Task Force and the rail body RSSB has urged the government to commit the rail industry to the national carbon target.

Rail Minister Andrew Jones had asked the task force to recommend decarbonisation targets for the rail industry as a way to build on the industry’s current target of removing all-diesel trains from the tracks by 2040.

Malcolm Brown, chair of the task force, said: ‘Britain is leading the world on setting clear targets to reduce carbon, and so it’s critical that all industries play their part.

‘Rail is ahead of the curve on the decarbonisation agenda, and our report shows that we can align with the government’s policy for the UK economy to be net carbon zero by 2050.

‘We will need to fully exploit electrification, hydrogen and battery power to make this happen, but we also need all transport sectors to fully comprehend the challenge of decarbonisation.’

Rail currently makes up less than 2.5% of total transport emissions and only around 0.6% of the UK’s total emissions, the report found.

It concluded that while the UK rail industry is considering trainsets such as diesel/electric hybrids, at the rate they are being adopted they will not help deliver decarbonisation fast enough.

Alongside electrification, hydrogen and battery power are the two technologies most likely to be able to make a significant impact on the UK’s carbon emissions by 2040, the task force discovered.

It said that electrifying the busiest routes while using hydrogen and battery power on routes where electrification is not viable would be the best way to do this.

Freight could prove the biggest stumbling block to decarbonising rail, as currently there are no alternatives to diesel on freight corridors apart from full electrification, the task force added.

The task force has asked government to confirm what it expects of rail in relation to the UK’s carbon target, while asking the industry to undertake further research in how to decarbonise freight.

RSSB’s head of sustainable development Anthony Perret said: ‘Climate change is non-negotiable, and poses unavoidable questions about how we want to live, let alone how we organise our economies and power our transport systems.

‘By focussing on the 2050 target, the rail industry is making the first major step to playing its part. Any future industry structure must enable and incentivise innovation and investment in significant decarbonisation to make this a reality.’

Andrew Jones welcomed the report, saying it provides ‘practical next steps’ for the rail industry to help with the 2050 target.

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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