Government's poor response on decarbonisation
In March, Parliament's Transport Select Committee produced a report of their recent inquiry Fuelling the Future, which was looking at ways to decarbonise transport.
The committee took evidence from stakeholders across the industry, including ASLEF (click here to read our submission), asking about the viability of future fuels from electrification to batteries and hydrogen.
The report found that the only realistic way to decarbonise the railway is to electrify as much as possible of the network. While there is the potential for hydrogen and batteries to fill gaps, electrification remains the only way to power heavy freight and high-speed passenger services.
This is not the first report that has come to the conclusion that rail electrification is essential for decarbonising the railway.
ASLEF has repeatedly called for the full electrification of the railway, through a rolling programme which would allow supply chains and project teams to be continually employed and therefore save money and retain institutional knowledge.
After publishing the final report of the inquiry the committee received a response from the UK government. Unfortunately the government did not commit to moving forward with some of the most important recommendations.
There was, for example, no full commitment to rail electrification, let alone a plan to do this. In addition the government stated that it would be running diesel trains on the new 'East-West Rail' line between Oxford and Cambridge. This is a new line which should obviously have been electrified from the beginning.
The Conservative MP who chairs the committee, Iain Stewart, commented:
“My colleagues also urged government to stay committed to electrifying railway lines, or introducing alternative low-carbon motive power where full electrification is not viable, so that we can look forward to the day that vast swathes of the country are free of diesel-guzzling trains. We want to see a long-term strategy with costings, milestones and a credible delivery plan. The Government’s response indicates there is still some way to go before they will be ready to put pen to paper on a detailed plan."
This indictment of the government's inaction from a member of their own party is in line with what ASLEF has been saying for many years. This is a government without a plan, without a strategy, and without the ability to deliver.