UK government falling behind on rail electrification targets, RMT union research finds

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Research by RMT, a British trade union representing workers in the rail, maritime and transport sectors, has revealed that Network Rail is nowhere near its own rail electrification targets as the government imposes “austerity and managed decline on Britain’s railways”.

The research revealed that Network Rail is currently failing to match its net zero commitments on decarbonizing the UK’s railways, ensuring that Britain continues to fall behind other countries in investing in faster, more efficient, and greener railways. 

Network Rail’s Traction Decarbonisation strategy states that over 8,000 miles of railway line needs to be electrified by 2050. Yet statistics from rail regulator the Office for Rail and Road analyzed by the RMT show that Britain needs to electrify its track at a rate of around nearly 300 miles every year, but in the past year 2021-22 managed to electrify just over one mile of new railway, the lowest figure for three years. 

The research comes on the back of Network Rail CEO Andrew Haines’ recent comments that it was “almost impossible” for the company to achieve its electrification objectives in the current climate given its cost.

The union warned that with the government “fixated on preserving chaotic and inefficient structures and seeking cuts across the industry, there was little hope of meeting decarbonization goals”. 

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said that transport was the UK’s largest emitting sector of greenhouse gases yet instead of cutting carbon emissions the government was cutting public transport jobs and investment. 

“Instead of investing to improve services and rapidly decarbonize our transport sector, they are undertaking a managed decline of our railways, which is compounded by persisting with a disastrously fragmented privatized rail system which is a barrier to long term rail investment and retention of skills needed to improve our railway infrastructure.  

“If this government was serious about the climate emergency, it would recognise the vital role that our railways and public transport must play in cutting climate emissions,” he said. 

The full research, “Reducing transport emissions to tackle the climate crisis”, can be found here.