Transport Decarbonisation Plan
Here we provide a summary of the actions and initiatives being taken by the rail industry and the government.
Net Zero 2050
Britain's railways have a crucial role to play in helping the UK economy decarbonise by 2050. Rail is already a naturally low-carbon transport mode. Despite making up around 10% of all distance travelled across the UK, rail is responsible for less than 2.5% of total transport emissions and about 0.6% of the UK’s total emissions.
For rail this means reducing, and ultimately eliminating, greenhouse gas emissions through improved energy efficiency, new energy sources and by removing diesel trains from the passenger network. It will support wider transport sector decarbonisation by providing cost- and carbon-effective opportunities for modal shift for passengers and freight from other transport modes.
Rail Industry Decarbonisation Task Force
The report produced by the Rail Industry Decarbonisation Task Force was published in July 2019. Its vision was ‘for the UK to have the world’s leading low-carbon railway by 2040.’ Its mission was to propose how ‘to move UK rail to the lowest practicable carbon energy base by 2040, enabling the industry to be world leaders in developing and delivering low carbon transport solutions for rail.’
The Taskforce undertook extensive consultation and technical research to understand the most cost-effective way to decarbonise the railway while, at the very least, maintaining existing levels of reliability and capacity. The Taskforce final report to the Minister for Rail recommended a balanced programme of electrification, hydrogen and battery traction options as the best way forward.
Decarbonisation - Our Final Report to the Rail Minister
This report responds to the Minister for Rail’s challenge to the industry to remove “all diesel only trains off the track by 2040” and “produce a vision for how the rail industry will decarbonise.”
Read what the industry is doing to tackle work-related violence and reflect on the next steps needed to improve reporting.
Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy
The core of the rail industry decarbonisation strategy and delivery plans have been captured in the Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy. This has been set up by Network Rail to determine how the Taskforce recommendations should be implemented. In July 2020, the Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy - Interim Programme Business Case was published. This sets out options to deliver the most cost-effective combination of electrification, hydrogen and battery operation across the GB rail network.
Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy - Interim Programme Business Case
Learn about the recommendations made for removing diesel trains from the network, achieve net-zero legislative targets, and identify the capital works programme required to achieve this.
William-Shapps Plan for Rail
The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail states that… ‘Great British Railways will bring forward costed options to decarbonise the whole network to meet the government's commitment to a net-zero society as part of the 30-year strategy’ for transport decarbonisation. To help to achieve zero emissions from trains and reduce air pollution electrification will be expanded, and alternative technologies such as hydrogen and battery power will be explored.
This recognises that the railways need to become the best option for long-distance travel and encourage a shift away from planes, cars and lorries. Therefore, rail has a key role in the UK’s low carbon transport system.
Williams-Shapps plan for rail
Find out about how the government plans to transform the railways.Find out more.
Transport Decarbonisation Plan
The Transport Decarbonisation Plan (TDP) sets out the government’s commitments and the actions needed to decarbonise the transport system. The corresponding report, ‘Decarbonising transport: a better, greener Britain’ was published in July 2021 and specifies the benefits that a net zero transport network can deliver together with the path and principles of the approach to its delivery.
The TDP sets out eight specific rail commitments, one of which incorporates the ambition to remove all diesel-only trains from the network by 2040. These are:
- Deliver a net zero rail network by 2050, with sustained carbon reductions in rail along the way.
- Deliver an ambitious, sustainable, and cost-effective programme of electrification
- Support the development of battery and hydrogen trains for deployment and use technology to clean up diesel trains until they can be removed.
- Build extra capacity on the rail network to meet growing passenger and freight demand and support significant shifts from road and air to rail.
- Work with the rail industry to modernise fares ticketing to encourage a shift to rail and cleaner transport journeys.
- Improve rail journey connectivity with walking, cycling and other modes of transport.
- Introduce a rail freight growth target.
- Incentivise the early take up of low carbon traction for rail freight.
Decarbonising transport: a better, greener Britain
Read the full set of recommendations set out by Transport Decarbonisation Plan in this report.
Rail Environment Policy Statement
The Rail Environment Policy Statement (REPS) provides more detail on how the TDP will be achieved.
In particular, REPS sets a direction for the industry on environmental sustainability and outlines priorities for the Sustainable Rail Strategy.
Rail environment policy statement: on track for a cleaner, greener railway
Read about the environmental priorities for the mainline railway.