A 30-year programme of rail electrification coupled with developing hydrogen and battery technologies are central plans unveiled by the government's Transport Committee to decarbonise the nation's railways.

The Trains Fit For the Future report emphasises that decarbonisation of the network will require moving from diesel traction to cleaner technologies.

However it adds that electrification is “the only immediately viable decarbonisation option for most of the network” because the alternatives are not suitable for the high energy demands of freight and high-speed services.

The report follows a number of recent rail decarbonisation commitments. In February 2018, former rail minister Jo Johnson challenged the rail industry to remove all diesel-only trains by 2040, while in September last year, Network Rail published its Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy. This sets out plans for 12,000km of electrification by 2050 and a key role for zero carbon traction including hydrogen and battery technology.

Going forward, the new transport committee report recommends that the Department for Transport (DfT) commits to a 30-year rolling programme of electrification projects “as soon as possible” and calls for this to be set out in a long-term rail decarbonisation strategy.

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