What Does the UK Government’s Decarbonising Transport Plan Say about Rail?

The plan is then laid out in 3 parts: a vision, strategic priorities for implementation, and an impact assessment on how the plan will affect transport emissions.

The vision for greener transport has a wider focus, positively, than just climate change – although this is a huge and vital concern. It highlights air and noise pollution, the liveability of communities, as well as the impact of transport on health and obesity and the resulting impact on the country’s healthcare service. It concludes that the current transport system places wider costs on society amounting to almost 50 billion GBP annually.

In its strategic priorities, two – number 1 and number 3 – relate directly to rail. Priority 1 is accelerating modal shift to public and active transport. These are to be the natural and first choice for daily activities, it says. To achieve that, the country must have a cohesive, widely available, net zero public transport network. Here the government also acknowledges that trains must be “better value and more competitively priced” but then says it will continue with its existing rail pricing strategy.

High-speed rail is to be an affordable alternative on longer routes where driving is currently an attractive choice.

A further strategic priority, Priority 3, is decarbonising freight by further modal shift, from road and air to more sustainable modes. In addition to making rail freight net zero by 2050, the government says it will increase the capacity to move more goods by rail.

When assessing the impact of all the measures on achieving net zero in transport by 2050, the government admits there is a lot of uncertainty.

The major documents this plan draws in, in terms of rail are:

The number one way of decarbonising the railways is electrification, the number one way of decarbonising transport is modal shift. This plan appears to recognise the wider benefits and implications of these goals. However, it remains to be seen just how much more of the network the government will electrify and how much modal shift it can encourage given the paucity of new railway lines under construction, especially when compared to the number of miles of roads (4,000 miles over five years) being built in this budget alone.
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