Rail (UK)

Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion holds key to re­vers­ing rail’s skills drain

- Richard Clin­nick Head of News richard.clin­nick@bauer­me­dia.co.uk @Richard_rail

A rolling pro­gramme of elec­tri­fi­ca­tion is needed to pre­vent the loss of skills that will be needed in the fu­ture.

Ad­dress­ing a House of

Com­mons Trans­port Select Com­mit­tee meet­ing on Novem­ber 11, Rail­way In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion Tech­ni­cal Direc­tor David Clarke said: “The last of the live elec­tri­fi­ca­tion de­liv­ery projects, the Mid­land Main Line to Corby, is just end­ing. We could end up in the ridicu­lous sit­u­a­tion where we are los­ing ca­pa­bil­ity when we know that we are go­ing to need it in a few years’ time.

“Our call is for a rolling pro­gramme of elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, which this Com­mit­tee has pre­vi­ously called for, sup­ported by fleet or­ders of low-car­bon rolling stock.”

As well as ad­dress­ing the pos­si­ble loss of skills, Clarke said this was needed to meet de­car­bon­i­sa­tion tar­gets set by Govern­ment.

He told MPs that while elec­tri­fi­ca­tion is tech­ni­cally suit­able for any line, the is­sue would be cost: “You would ap­ply elec­tri­fi­ca­tion where the costs can be out­weighed by the fact that you are run­ning freight, which needs the en­ergy that elec­tri­fi­ca­tion can pro­vide.

“At the mo­ment, we have a chal­lenge with freight. Other so­lu­tions do not have the en­ergy den­sity to haul a freight train. If you have freight, high speed and in­tense rail­ways such as com­muter rail­ways, elec­tri­fi­ca­tion is the only an­swer if you can­not use diesel.”

Porter­brook Chief Ex­ec­u­tive

Mary Grant told MPs that, for the first time, the in­dus­try was be­gin­ning to see a po­ten­tial roadmap for a 30-year-strat­egy: “That is pleas­ing. When you are look­ing at procur­ing as­sets and rolling stock, you need to take a long-term view be­cause they have a long-term life value. There has been a clar­ity that we have not seen much be­fore.

“The ask now is for that to come to a firmer com­mit­ment, so that we can take the right level of de­ci­sion-mak­ing to sup­port the in­fill re­quire­ments.”

Dis­cussing the ben­e­fits of us­ing elec­tric trains, Clarke said: “The beauty of it is that you do not have to carry your power around with you. For hy­dro­gen and bat­tery, you do. That takes up quite a lot of space, which means that hy­dro­gen and bat­tery, even if there are the most am­bi­tious lev­els of im­prove­ment in en­ergy den­sity and in­deed cost, are highly un­likely to be able to do those duty cy­cles.”

Clarke said that if “we crack on for the first 15 or 20 years elec­tri­fy­ing the core bits of the net­work and rolling out low­car­bon rolling stock”, then the in­dus­try would know a lot more about tech­nol­ogy when mak­ing de­ci­sions for the re­main­ing ten years of a 30-year strat­egy.

“I could en­tirely see that there would be more hy­dro­gen and bat­tery in the last ten years dis­plac­ing some elec­tri­fi­ca­tion.

But it is not go­ing to dis­place elec­tri­fi­ca­tion in its en­tirety,” he said.

For­mer TSC Chair­woman Lil­ian Green­wood high­lighted that cur­rently 58% of pas­sen­ger trains and 96% of freight trains in the UK are diesel-pow­ered, com­pared with 26% and 44% re­spec­tively in Europe.

She asked what could be learned from abroad, with Clarke re­ply­ing: “We have a graph that looks at the moun­tain range that is the feast and famine of UK elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, with a 20-year gap between East Coast and CP5 [Con­trol Pe­riod 5, 2014-19). If you com­pare that with Ger­many, they have been shelling out 200km a year ev­ery year for 50 years. Guess who is the most ef­fi­cient at de­liv­er­ing elec­tri­fi­ca­tion? It isn’t us.”

Asked how quickly a de­ci­sion from Govern­ment is needed to get the rolling pro­gramme go­ing, Clarke replied: “Yes­ter­day would be good.”

 ?? JOHN MAHON. ?? GB Rail­freight 66747 Made in Sh­effield hauls for­mer Greater Anglia 321437 through Hale­wood on Novem­ber 23, with the 1232 Edge Hill-Widnes. GBRf 66723 Chi­nook was on the rear. This was the first ‘321’ to move to Al­stom’s fa­cil­ity for its Breeze hy­dro­gen train pro­gramme.
JOHN MAHON. GB Rail­freight 66747 Made in Sh­effield hauls for­mer Greater Anglia 321437 through Hale­wood on Novem­ber 23, with the 1232 Edge Hill-Widnes. GBRf 66723 Chi­nook was on the rear. This was the first ‘321’ to move to Al­stom’s fa­cil­ity for its Breeze hy­dro­gen train pro­gramme.
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