Get exclusive news updates on the Big Plans and Big Changes!

Destination: a net zero railway

Net zero

The UK has set itself a legally binding target of reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, and rail travel will be crucial to realising this.

As the UK’s economy begins to recover from the unprecedented challenges from the coronavirus pandemic, we need to ensure that the rail plays its part in fostering a green recovery.

Rail is already a low-carbon form of transport, accounting for 10% of total journeys but only 1.4% of total transport emissions and about 0.5% of the UK total emissions, making it an environmentally friendly way to transport people and goods across the country.

However, there is much more to do to reach net zero. With the right infrastructure and holistic transport policies in place, rail can play a leading role in the decarbonisation of the transport sector.

Decarbonising Transport: Setting The Challenge

In July 2020, the Rail Delivery Group published its proposals for a cleaner and greener future, by:

  • Establishing a new, up to date fares and ticketing system which will encourage passengers to use the network. It will also foster and promote seamless travel between other, low carbon forms of public transport;
  • Setting legal carbon targets by including carbon and wider environmental targets in future rail management contracts. This will give a new National Rail Body responsibility for carbon monitoring and environmental regulation of the rail industry;
  • Levelling the transport tax playing field and ensuring that transport taxation and charging regimes reflect the environmental impact of each transport mode in a consistent way;
  • Investing in zero carbon infrastructure;
  • Supporting the growth of rail freight to help reduce traffic jams and reduce emissions. Each freight train would take 76 HGVs off the road; and
  • Creating sustainable stations.

Even though 2050 is a generation away, infrastructure and policy decisions made now will directly affect the UK’s ability to meet its net zero target in a cost-effective way. Our step-by-step approach to decarbonising rail will smooth the transition to the 2050 target and deliver real carbon reductions to the UK over the next 30 years.

Underpinning this remains the importance of running a customer-focussed, punctual and reliable railway. Getting these “basics” right will remain essential if the railway is to remain an attractive mode of transport in years to come.

Building back better: the green case for rail investment after the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted realities, and there has been much discussion as to the long-term impact of the virus, and in particular how people’s travel patterns will be affected. Increasing railway patronage to pre-pandemic levels will be essential if we are to meet the Government’s legal commitment of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

In making the green case for rail investment, we are proposing: 

Net zero

Strengthen the railway’s contribution to the economy, keeping running costs in the black, freeing up taxpayers’ money

Net zero

Low carbon infrastructure & electrification programme


Increased freight capacity


Improved long-distance connections


Fares reform


Level playing field in tax policy

  • sustainability
  • net zero

    Sign-up for news updates

    Get exclusive news updates on the Big Plans and Big Changes

    What big changes do you want?

    Rail companies are calling for big changes but what matters to you?