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Full decarbonisation of passenger rail services in Scotland by 2035 including the electrification of an average of 130 track-km/year is envisaged in an action plan published by Transport Scotland on July 28.
Developed in collaboration with Network Rail Scotland and ScotRail, the Rail Services Decarbonisation Action Plan sets out an indicative phased programme of electrification to help achieve the Scottish Government’s target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.
It does not set out detailed costs, as the required analysis has yet to be undertaken.
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson noted that preparatory work was already underway for the first electrification work covering the lines to East Kilbride and Barrhead, with the Anniesland/Maryhill and Borders routes also in development.
Early work has also begun to assess how inter-city routes could be tackled to inform delivery programmes and funding decisions.
‘The current Covid-19 pandemic has been a challenging and difficult time across the globe’, Matheson said. ‘While our Programme for Government commitment to publish our plans for decarbonising Scotland’s railways was rightly paused, I am now pleased we can share them. This is particularly important for the rail industry and its supply chain, who are keen to see projects progress. Building on our recent strong track record of delivering electrification projects we have set out ambitious but achievable plans to decarbonise our rail passenger services by 2035, five years ahead of the UK target.’
The report says that transport is a significant contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, but within this rail in Scotland ‘is a success story’, with around 76% of passenger and 45% of freight journeys already using electric traction. Passenger train emissions were 36·6 gCO2 equivalent per passenger-km in 2018-19, down 10·3% on 2017-18. Freight emissions were 25·3 gCO2e per tonne-km, down 4·1%.
Alternative tractionTransport Scotland is investigating opportunities for alternative traction on rural and scenic lines and in areas where discontinuous electrification could be used as an interim or transitional measure.
The report says that whilst a rolling programme of electrification would reduce journey times, operating costs and emissions on busy, high speed or heavy freight routes, alternatives to full electrification would have a role for lightly-used and some long distance routes where full electrification is not financially justified.
Battery-electric trains have the potential to offer operating cost savings and are currently considered effective for lower-intensity services of up to around 90 km. Recent estimates suggest providing battery capability on electric trains adds around 25% to the capital expenditure and increases operating costs, but they can be brought into service relatively soon.
Hydrogen fuel cells have potential uses over longer distances, but the report says the comparatively low energy density requires large storage volumes. Hydrogen trains are expected to have higher capital and operating costs than diesel, and would need to use hydrogen from renewable sources to eliminate emissions.
Transport Scotland has also considered the expected lifespans of the current leased ScotRail fleet to establish when decision points should occur, noting that the current fleets typically have end-of-life dates in 2025-35.
CostWith the cost of full electrification a key factor for delivery of the plan, Transport Scotland notes that it is ‘aware electrification is being delivered more efficiently both in cost and time in some parts of Europe than is the case here in Britain’.
Some countries give designers more freedom to design to output specifications, innovate and challenge established standards, and the report concludes ‘we believe that if Network Rail Scotland is wholly responsible for cost, safety and delivery, but has a degree of freedom to determine designs appropriate to the needs of Scotland’s network, it should be able to deliver pragmatic, effective electrification solutions that adopt and adapt best practice from here in Britain and across Europe at an increasingly efficient price.’
This article first appeared on www.railwaygazette.com
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