De-Carbonisation is the future for UK Rail

September 15, 2021

The IPCC is unequivocal: we must take urgent action to curb global heating and prevent catastrophe

Scientists have given Governments across the World in recent weeks stark warnings; action must be taken now to prevent catastrophic global warming. July 2021 was the hottest month every recorded on Earth, and we have seen extreme heatwaves in North-Western America and Canada. We have seen unprecedented flooding in parts of Belgum and Germany. De-carbonisation is the only way forward, whether that is powering our homes and factories via renewable energy sources and our transportation via electric means or planting hundreds of millions of trees Worldwide. The UK Government has committed to net zero carbon by 2050. A key aspect of delivering this is de-carbonisation in the Rail industry.

Earlier in the year as reported in the Global Railway Review (March 26 2021) The Railway Industry Association (RIA), the voice of the UK rail supply community, announced its new RailDecarb21 campaign, calling on the UK government to redouble its efforts to decarbonise the rail network ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26). Launched in a speech by RIA’s Chief Executive, Darren Caplan, the decarbonisation campaign calls on the UK government to begin a rolling programme of electrification and to start fleet orders of hydrogen and battery rolling stock in order to meet the UK’s ‘Net Zero by 2050’ target and to show global leadership ahead of the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association, said: “Our rail network is already a low carbon form of transport, contributing only 1.4 per cent to the UK’s domestic transport emissions and just 0.5 per cent of the UK’s total carbon emissions. Yet, we have clear targets from government to meet – to remove all diesel-only trains from the network by 2040 and to help the UK secure its commitment to achieve Net Zero by 2050.”

Darren continued: “That is why we vitally need to begin a rolling programme of cost-effective electrification, which can be delivered at up to 50 per cent less than the cost of certain past problem projects. And we also need to see orders of hydrogen and battery trains, which the industry is ready to deliver.”


These schemes are seeking approval or confirmation:

  • HS2 Phase 2b – the route for Phase 2b from Crewe to Manchester and West Midlands to Leeds is awaiting publication of the Integrated Rail Plan by the government. Phase 2b will also include electrification of the existing Erewash Valley and Midland Main Line route between Alfreton and Sheffield.
  • Leeds to Manchester – The National Infrastructure Commission High Speed North report called for the full trans-Pennine (Manchester to Leeds) rail route to be electrified and upgraded, but the Transport Secretary has been quoted as saying that full electrification is unlikely. Only electrification can deliver the quicker more reliable journeys, over the Pennine gradients, needed for the economic prosperity of these cities. Network Rail has submitted a Transport and Works Act Order application for electrification between Huddersfield and Leeds and four-tracking between Huddersfield and Dewsbury, which Boston Rail supports because this section is the slowest, most difficult and most capacity constrained on the route. Initial funding has been approved and work is expected to start in 2023.


Boston Rail are a champion of electrification, it helps reduce carbon emissions, is more sustainable, and creates thousands of jobs for rail workers. This is also an opportunity to address the acute skills shortage in the industry and Boston Rail believe in giving ex-forces individuals (and those from similar sectors such as aviation and automotive) an opportunity with a tailored training and development programme to help them develop and ultimately add value to the sector. Developing new digital skills is important for the future and Boston Rail invest in the operatives we provide to all the sectors in which we operate in the UK and further afield. Boston Rail have developed a 2-year training plan from an entry level candidate to an OLE operative incorporating OLEC 1, 2, 3 training courses. With customer commitment to give new entrants experience this approach will help meet the industry’s significant demand for new talent to help the sector grow in the future, and above all ultimately help deliver zero net carbon by 2050.

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