THE GOVERNMENT is aiming to remove all diesel-only trains from the UK network by 2040, Rail Minister Jo Johnson has said.

The minister said the ambition matches the Government’s target to end sales of petrol and diesel cars by the same date. Mr Johnson said rail emissions are up 33% since 1990 and called on the railway to provide a vision for how it will ‘decarbonise’, saying he expected it to report back ‘by the autumn’.

‘By decarbonising rail, we’ll reduce pollutants and improve air quality, particularly in our semi-enclosed stations’ the minister explained. ‘We will tackle this with the urgency it deserves by setting tough new environmental performance goals in each rail franchise which the train operators will have to meet. Total electrification of our tracks is unlikely to be the only or most cost-effective way to secure these vital environmental benefits.’

Mr Johnson highlighted the benefits of bi-mode trains, such as those operating on the Great Western main line. He also suggested ‘As battery technologies improve we expect to see the diesel engines in bi-modes replaced altogether, with batteries powering the train between the electrified sections of the network. Or maybe in the future we could see those batteries and diesel engines replaced with hydrogen units?’ The minister reiterated the Government’s ambition to see hydrogen train trials on the network ‘as soon as possible’.

The Government is investing ‘record amounts in public R&D to improve our knowledge base’, said Mr Johnson. He highlighted that Northern has been tasked with delivering an electric/ battery hybrid train on the Windermere branch from 2021.

In his call for the industry to report back with plans, Mr Johnson said he wanted to see ‘a clear, long-term strategy with consistent objectives and incentives’, with ‘options like lighter rolling stock and alternative sources of power considered and analysed’.

Bi-mode breaks new ground: Class 800s visited Leeds for the first time in January. GWR-liveried Class 800s Nos 800003/004 are pictured at the station on 24 January 2018, working a test run from Doncaster Carr IEP depot. Russell Wykes