The Department for Transport (DfT) has been told to draw up a rail electrification plan before the end of the year or risk jeopardising the UK’s net zero carbon emission targets.
In its Overview of the English rail system, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) highlights a “disappointing lack of progress in agreeing a specific and funded plan for rail electrification”, which it says will pose risks to achieving the Government’s Net Zero targets.
It also points to a "'feast or famine' approach” in electrification projects “which has directly caused boom and bust problems in the supply chain for the SMEs involved in the delivery of these projects and uncertainty for procurement of rolling stock.”
To tackle this the report reiterates the Government’s Transport Committee’s call for “a long-term plan for rail, including a strategy for decarbonisation and electrification”.
The PAC report adds: “In its December letter to the Committee, the Department should set out how it will work with others to deliver the electrification required to meet net zero commitments over the long term, and how it plans to fund a stable programme of investment.”
Other recommendations made in the report include clarity on achieving Network Rail’s efficiencies target and a clear plan to attract passengers back to the railway following Covid-19.
Railway Industry Association chief executive Darren Caplan welcomed the PAC’s call for clarity on electrification. He said: “It is positive to see the Public Accounts Committee making the case for a consistent programme of electrification work. Alongside battery and hydrogen train fleet orders, electrification is essential if we are to meet the Government’s Net Zero decarbonisation goals. As the Committee highlights, delivering a rolling programme of work, without the ‘boom and bust’ investment profiles we’ve seen in the past, is a cost-effective way to electrify the UK’s intensively used rail lines. This certainty will also help to retain key skills and enable innovation, supporting green jobs and economic growth at this crucial time.”