The industry needs to start putting battery and hydrogen trains in service sooner rather than later, so it can learn how they perform.
That is the message from Network Rail Strategy and Planning Director (Network) Helen McAllister.
Speaking on the second day of the National Rail Recovery Conference, organised by RAIL, McAllister told delegates: “We have prototypes, we’ve done demonstrations, now let’s learn how to make these happen in terms of engineering standards, operational standards and driver training.”
She said that while any proposed new railway should consider the need to be zero carbon in the future, that doesn’t mean it has to be zero carbon from the outset.
“It makes no sense to have a zero-carbon piece of network connected to a diesel network that’s not going to be decarbonised for many years,” she explained.
McAllister also warned: “As cars and lorries decarbonise rapidly, rail will very quickly find itself not in the top spot for being the greenest form of transport.”
She said NR recommends that any operator seeking to buy diesel trains in the future will need to make a very convincing case, although that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be bought.