Rail industry: We can decarbonise our rail network with the right Government policy

28 May 2019

On decarbonisation, David Clarke, Technical Director of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said:
“The Government has set out a challenge to the rail industry to decarbonise the network by 2040, and today, on behalf of the rail supply chain, we have submitted our proposals to the Transport Select Committee ‘trains fit for the future’ inquiry setting out how we can do so.
“Crucially, the rail industry needs the right policy environment to replace diesel passenger trains with those that use electricity, hydrogen or batteries. To do so, the Government need to understand that different parts of our rail network will need different solutions.
“So, for intensively used lines, electrification is the optimal solution, whilst for routes with lower traffic levels, new technologies like hydrogen and batteries have a role to play. And to support this transition we need to utilise bi-mode and battery hybrid trains, as we progressively extend the frontier of electrification.
“To decarbonise, the industry also needs certainty over electrification and a commitment to a ten year rolling programme that allows the sector to build up expertise and capabilities. As shown by the RIA Electrification Cost Challenge report, the industry can deliver rail electrification at up to 50% less than some past projects, but that requires Government to keep electrification as an option as we seek to decarbonise.”
On the train market, Damian Testa, Senior Policy Manager at the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said: “When considering what trains we want in the future, we must remember that the best long-term value for passengers, taxpayers and investors is achieved by a sustainable train manufacturing industry, which ensures a combination of new and existing trains are used on the rail network.  
“Over 7,200 new vehicles are currently on order in the UK - equating to half of the national fleet. New trains are great for passengers and many of these vehicles will replace older vehicles, which will then be scrapped. However, some will also displace newer trains which still have service-life on the network. This can harm the rail refurbishment market, is more expensive in the long term and is worse for the environment, due to the embedded carbon in building new trains.
“It is vital that we therefore work with Government to deliver a balanced train fleet policy that recognises that trains have around a 30 – 35 year life and that will give the supply chain the confidence to continue to invest in new vehicles, whilst also in maintaining and improving existing trains.”

Notes to Editors


  1. RIA’s submission to the Transport Select Committee’s ‘trains fit for the future’ inquiry can be found here.
  2. More information about the inquiry can be found here.
  3. About RIA: The Railway Industry Association (RIA) is the voice of the UK rail supply community. We help to grow a sustainable, high-performing, railway supply industry, and to export UK rail expertise and products. We promote and represent our members’ interests to policy makers, clients and other stakeholders in the UK and overseas. RIA has 280+ companies in membership in a sector that contributes £36 billion in economic growth and £11 billion in tax revenue each year, as well as employing 600,000 people—more than the workforce of Birmingham. It is also a growing industry with the number of rail journeys expected to double over the next 25 years and freight set to grow significantly too. RIA’s membership is active across the whole of railway supply, covering a diverse range of products and services and including both multi-national companies and SMEs (60% by number). RIA works to promote the importance of the rail system to UK plc, to help export UK expertise around the globe and to share best practice and innovation across the industry

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