New report reveals UK Government falling behind on rail decarbonisation targets

RIA analysis has revealed that the UK Government is making insufficient progress on its key rail decarbonisation commitments.

Nearly two years on from the publication of the Government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan (TDP) which set out how Transport would achieve Net Zero carbon by 2050, the Railway Industry Association (RIA) has reviewed all the commitments made in the TDP and measured them against public announcements up to May 2023. Each commitment has been rated as red (commitments not met), amber (commitment partially met) or green (commitment met).

The report found that of 45 commitments made across six different methods of transport, four were rated red, 12 amber and 29 green. However, the report also shows that the Government is making significantly less progress when it comes to decarbonising the rail sector compared to other transport modes. Out of eight commitments on rail, three were rated red, five amber and none were rated green. This comes in stark contrast to other methods of transport, with the six commitments on buses and coaches, for example, all rated green.

The audit is part of RIA’s RailDecarb23 campaign, which was launched earlier this year. The campaign urges the Government to accelerate plans for rail decarbonisation, through a rolling programme of electrification, investment in new traction methods like hydrogen and battery and bringing together Government, rail clients and suppliers to seek ways to reduce carbon when building the railway network.

“The Railway Industry Association’s analysis of the Government’s ‘Transport Decarbonisation Plan’ published exactly two years reveals a concerning picture when it comes to rail decarbonisation,” Darren Caplan, RIA’s Chief Executive, said. “All the TDP commitments – which RIA welcomed when they were published nearly two years ago – need to be achieved if the Government is to hit Net Zero transport by 2050. The fact that the rate of rail decarbonisation lags behind other methods of transport by some distance jeopardises the whole decarbonisation plan. This report will of course be of particular concern to the rail supply chain. The industry needs certainty and clarity on the commitments required to achieve Net Zero, in order to invest in the green technologies required and cut carbon emissions; at present, there seems to be neither. Alongside the environmental impact, this lack of progress means rail passengers will also not be able to benefit from the more efficient and modernised rail services that come with decarbonisation.

“It’s not too late for the Government to put its foot on the pedal and deliver on rail decarbonisation. As RIA has set out through our RailDecarb23 campaign, we need to see a rolling programme of electrification, investment in hydrogen and battery trains and steps to reduce carbon when building the railway network, to both deliver on the TDP and to enhance the experience for rail passengers.”

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