Ten-year rail electrification programme can cut costs by 33-50%, new report says

Rail leaders are calling on ministers to once again look at the facts of electrification and learn from vital lessons from the past with a new report stating how schemes can be delivered at 33-50% of the cost of some previous projects.

Using examples from the UK and internationally, The Electrification Cost Challenge (ECC) report which has been launched by the Railway Industry Association (RIA) attempts to show that high costs seen on recent projects can be avoided in the future by establishing a ten-year rolling programme, which would build up capabilities amongst rail businesses, thus lowering long-term costs.

The national trade body for the UK’s rail supply community wants government to collaborate with the rail industry and renew its commitment to electrification, following the cancellation of a number of schemes in July 2017.

Last March, the National Audit Office - the government spending watchdog – rejected claims made by the transport secretary Chris Grayling in which he said electrification scheme were cancelled because there were other ways of delivering improvements.

The NAO instead insisted that the decision by government to not modernise lines from Cardiff to Swansea, the Midland mainline and tracks in the Lake District was purely a financial one.

Just before a summer recess in 2017, Grayling defended the call by claiming that new bi-mode train technology would offer “seamless transfer from diesel power to electric” and this meant there was no longer the need to electrify every line to achieve improvements to journeys.

But this new report states that electrification is the “optimal solution for intensively used rail lines” and agrees with a recent report by the Rail Industry Decarbonisation Taskforce that electrification should be seen as the first choice in a hierarchy of options for decarbonising the rail network by 2040.

Commenting, David Clarke, technical director at the RIA, said: “A rolling programme of electrification would allow rail businesses to build up and retain expertise, further reducing the cost of future schemes. The lessons from previous projects, including the Great Western Electrification Programme, are clear but we should stop using these projects as a benchmark for the cost of future schemes.”

Network Rail has welcomed the findings. Commenting, chief executive Andrew Haines said: “The most recently completed schemes demonstrate that we’ve made good progress in reducing the cost of electrification.  This report takes the debate forward, brings insight to the challenges and solutions for successful delivery and illustrates that we can sustain a hard-earned level of industry capability through efficient investment in electrification.”

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