The UK Railway Industry Association (RIA) has joined the Transport Select Committee in expressing disappointment at the government’s response to the Fuelling the Future report on the decarbonisation of the country’s transport industries. 

Published in March 2023, the report made a number of recommendations to the government, including two points specifically directed toward the rail industry; such as a long-term strategy for decarbonising the rail network. 

However, chairperson Ian Stewart MP wrote to Transport Secretary Mark Harper to say that, while there were some positives, his committee remained concerned about aspects of the government’s response to the report.

Stewart said: “My cross-party colleagues and I found the government’s response to our report disappointing as it failed to properly address some recommendations and sidestepped a key point altogether – that its overarching ‘technology agnostic’ approach on future fuels is long past its sell-by date. 

“We believe ministers need to move on from this and give greater certainty to investors and others about which fuels in each mode of transport they should be backing.” 

RIA technical director David Clarke said the rate of rail decarbonisation was far behind other modes of transport, with three rail commitments not being met by the government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan. 

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“This isn’t just bad news for rail decarbonisation, it makes reaching net zero by 2050 less likely. All of the government’s commitments need to be achieved if the UK is to reach net zero; a lack of progress in any one area jeopardises the whole plan,” Clarke added.

The RIA’s concern also referenced a Department for Transport promise that the Great British Railways transition team would be publishing “costed options” for the delivery of a rail decarbonisation plan, with Clarke stating that these needed to be outlined “as soon as possible”. 

His call for urgency echoed the RIA’s previous call for the government to urgently move forward with legislation in regard to the establishment of Great British Railways as the operator of the UK’s rail infrastructure.

In its original response to the Fuelling the Future report, the government said that it recognised uncertainty around its strategy based on the reliance on long-term projections.

However, it said: “Based on the current state of technology and research, the government believes it is the most credible pathway to deliver on its net zero targets.”