The rail industry and government are working together to ensure the railways continue to offer one of the lowest-carbon transport options for passengers and freight.

​Decarbonising as part of sustainable development

Decarbonisation means reducing and, ultimately eliminating, carbon dioxide emissions. It is essential in tackling climate change a fundamental issue facing all industries.

The rail industry wants to achieve long-term reductions in carbon emissions through improved energy efficiency, new power sources and modal shift.

Our members are committed to the pursuit of a lower carbon railway. Less carbon means less cost, and the more ambitious we are, the more we are helping the country meet its carbon targets.

Being “carbon smart” is one of the rail industry’s Sustainable Development Principles.

The Rail Minister’s challenge

On 12 February 2018, Jo Johnson MP, then Minister for Rail, challenged the rail industry to remove all diesel-only trains from the network by 2040 and to provide a vision for how it will decarbonise. 

Chaired by Malcolm Brown, the rail industry’s Decarbonisation Task Force has membership from organisations representing major parts of the industry. It was set up to respond to the call by Jo Johnson MP in February 2018.

Initial report by the Rail Industry Decarbonisation Task Force

On 31 January 2019, the Rail Industry Decarbonisation Task Force and RSSB published an initial report outlining a credible set of technical options to address the challenge set by Jo Johnson the year before.

News article - Rail experts: Ambitious decarbonisation plan for rail is possible

The report is underpinned by an extensive research project “Options for traction energy decarbonisation in rail” – project reference T1145 – which is available to download from SPARK. This research improves our understanding of the path towards decarbonising traction energy, and the associated economic and commercial case.

The taskforce has concluded that it should be possible to remove all diesel-only passenger trains from the network by 2040. The case for freight is much less clear-cut. Only diesel has the energy density and go anywhere capability necessary for freight operation on the network in accordance with current operating requirements. RSSB is commissioning further work to look at the specific challenges for the freight sector.

In late spring 2019 we aim to publish a final report, including the Taskforce’s recommendation, an economic appraisal and a route map for delivery a low carbon railway.

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