Thanks to innovative new technologies, the rail industry now has an array of tools with which to build a more sustainable railway. But in order to reach the legally binding Net Zero goals in time, it needs to be smart in how and when these technologies are deployed.
Technically feasible but highly challenging’: that’s how the Climate Change Committee describes the UK’s Net Zero legislation. By 2050, the UK must reduce its net emissions of greenhouse gases by 100% relative to 1990 levels, and according to the Institute for Government, the UK wasn’t even on track to hit its previous target -80% by 2050 -at the time that legislation was passed. Given that diesel-only trains must be phased out by 2040, the UK railways must act even faster than the rest of the economy. It’s fair to say that Net Zero by 2050 is ambitious, and time is ticking at merely twenty-nine years away. The threat of climate change is not going to fade away and it is the biggest challenge the UK has ever had to tackle in this modern society.
The good news is that rail as an industry have a wider range of solutions than ever before. The past few years have seen a great deal of innovation, and while Net Zero legislation is incentivising electrification of our railways, other technologies will help the industry to get there faster. According to forecasts by Network Rail, it’s anticipated that by 2050 only 75% of the track will be fully electric. The rest will be composed of hybrid trains, capable of running on electrified tracks while maintaining a diesel or hydrogen fuel engine.