Transport body Network Rail has outlined its vision to decarbonise thousands of miles of rail lines in the West Midlands and across the UK over the next 30 years.
The UK’s railway operator said it wanted to see the lines using electrified trains and those running on hydrogen and battery power by 2050, in a new report called ‘Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy’.
According to Network Rail’s newly published report, there could be 7,270 miles of electrification, 250 miles of battery power and 560 miles of hydrogen-operated lines, with a further 1,430 miles where there is “no clear” technical choice at present.
In the West Midlands specifically, Network Rail’s recommendations include the electrification of the lines running between Birmingham and Derby, Leicester, Nuneaton and Shrewsbury via Wolverhampton.
It also recommends electrifying a freight-only corridor looping around north Birmingham which sees significant traffic flow to avoid major urban routes with ambitions to add passenger services to this corridor.
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The Chiltern Main Line between Birmingham and London via Solihull and Warwickshire, services connecting Worcester with Oxford and Hereford and others in Oxfordshire are also included in Network Rail’s report.
Maria Machancoses, director with regional transport body Midlands Connect, believes these announcements would unleash a “rail revolution in the Midlands not seen in a hundred years”.
“It will create skilled jobs, help level up the economy and the UK to meet its net-zero target,” she said.
“But not only that, passengers will see improved reliability and faster journeys.
“The historic report recommends the electrification of almost all the Midlands rail network over the next few decades.
“This gives us the green light to engineer a system that really couples the East and West Midlands for the first time with decent, speedy and effective rail links.”
Last year, the UK Government set out a legislative target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 which included a plan to remove all diesel-only trains from the network in England and Wales by 2040 while the Scottish Government is aiming for 2035.
Paul McMahon, from Network Rail, said: “Rail has the potential to move large volumes of people and goods reliably with zero carbon emissions with current technology.
“We have a huge opportunity to play an important part in a green economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic and tackling climate change.
“As our power supply comes from nuclear energy, it is logical that we immediately focus on reducing diesel train usage on our network with the ultimate goal of removing them entirely.
“Over the last year, Network Rail has worked collaboratively with the rail industry to establish how we can best work together to achieve this (and) I am delighted we are now able to set out the different ways how we could minimise direct carbon emissions from trains.”