MPs’ call for more R&D to support decarbonising the railways

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RSSB has welcomed a call from the House of Commons Transport Committee for continued investment in R&D to support rail’s contribution to decarbonisation.

In its report “Trains fit for the future?” published this week, the Transport Committee echoes calls made by the rail industry and RSSB to support decarbonisation research more positively. 

As lead developers of the rail industry’s sustainability strategy, RSSB were among those that gave evidence to the Transport Committee. 

RSSB experts are looking forward to continuing their technical leadership on decarbonisation through the ongoing programme of industry research. They fear that GB rail risks not being ready to fully decarbonise in time for a UK-wide statutory target to be net carbon zero by 2050, unless more R&D can be unlocked. 

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

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. 

However, the rail network still relies extensively on diesel traction.  This needs to be replaced by electrifying lines through a long-term rolling programme, as well as the introduction of hydrogen and battery alternatives where electrification isn’t suitable. 

Electrification is proven but more R&D is needed to improve power generation, distribution, storage and delivery, and route and network modelling. There also needs to be more work on the economic analysis, carbon pricing and incentives for rail.

RSSB’s Sustainability Director, George Davies said: 

We welcome the Transport Committee’s report and look forward to continuing to inform the industry’s crucial action to reduce the carbon footprint of GB rail. As a sector we will play a big part in helping the UK achieve net carbon zero by 2050. It’s vital that we get the backing for more research so that we can ensure a fully informed set of solutions for infrastructure, rolling stock and both passenger and freight operations.” 

Further information

More information about RSSB’s work on decarbonisation

The House of Commons Transport Committee’s report – Trains fit for the future? – can be downloaded from the UK Parliament website. There is also a summary news item on the same website. The UK Government is expected to respond to it by 23 May 2021. 

Other major rail industry stakeholders have also welcomed the report including the Railway Industry Association.

If you have any further questions about this news release, call us on 020 3142 5332, or 07711 001907, or email

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