Britain’s rail system is one of the lowest carbon modes of transport. It continues to improve its carbon performance with emissions per passenger kilometre reducing by nearly 30% since 2005. And rail’s strong environmental performance is helping to reduce UK carbon emissions by up to 7.7 million tonnes every year including through modal shift.
The industry has come together through the Rail Decarbonisation Task Force to respond to a ministerial challenge to remove “all diesel-only trains off the track by 2040” and “produce a vision for how the rail industry will decarbonise”. The Task Force’s work confirms that the rail industry can lead the way in Europe on the drive to decarbonise. It sets out the key building blocks required to ensure the rail industry can be a major contributor to the UK government’s target of net zero carbon by 2050.
In August 2019 a pioneering trial started using solar energy to partly power an electrified railway line in Hampshire. The trial, developed by charity 10:10 Climate Action and Imperial College London, will help support decarbonisation of the railway.
A partnership between the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) and rolling stock provider Porterbrook, led to the testing of HydroFLEX, the UK’s first hydrogen train in June 2019. Unlike diesel trains, hydrogen-powered trains only produce electricity, water and heat at the point of use. Testing and trials will continue in 2020 with hydrogen-fuelled train services planned to run on the network afterwards.
Both projects are being funded through the Department for Transport’s innovation programme
Greener stations At the 20 biggest stations in the UK managed by Network Rail: