19 October 2009
Proposals to electrify up to 400 miles of railways have been set out by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC). Their scheme would allow electric trains to run along one fully electrified route between Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, Leeds and York; as well as linking Birmingham to Bristol, Reading, Swindon and Gloucester. Alan Francis, the Green Party's transport spokesperson, gives his comments on the proposals:
The Green Party supports the proposal from the Association of Train Operating Companies for more rail lines to be electrified.
This would bring benefits for passengers in many parts of the country and for the environment, especially in reducing carbon emissions. Electric trains are faster and more reliable than diesels, consume less energy and so produce less CO2 emissions. New electric trains will cut CO2 emissions by at least a fifth compared with the diesel fleet. However, we need need electric trains, but electric trains powered by wind, tidal and solar, rather than trains powered by dirty coal, nuclear and gas. The savings will be greater if the Government can deliver a fivefold increase in the proportion of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
However, we note that ATOC, whose members are the train operating companies, does not offer to contribute towards the cost of electrification. They expect that to be born by the government and Network Rail, which owns the tracks. Since the privately owned train operating companies would benefit from reduced operating costs, they should contribute to the cost of electrification rather than expecting the publicly owned part of the rail industry to entirely fund it, while they take the profits.
The Conservatives, despite supposedly supporting carbon reduction, are critical of the cost of rail electrification. However at a cost of about £3m per mile it is less than one tenth of the cost of motorway widening which is costing up to £40m per mile. It is a much better investment to spend £3m per mile on rail electrifcation that will reduce CO2 emissions, than to spend £40m per mile on motorway widening that will increase CO2 emissions.