The Railway Industry Association (RIA) North has published a new plan outlining the priority for electrification in the North of England.

Called ‘Greener, Faster, Better’, the plan sets out a long-term plan for which passenger and freight routes should be prioritised for electrification, as well as other low-carbon technologies, such as battery and hydrogen-power.

The report identifies strategic freight lines, intercity corridors, and suburban networks across North England that should be top of the list to be electrified.

According to RIA North, the Midland Main Line and TransPennine Route Upgrade offer the greatest decarbonisation benefits – both of which the UK Government announced it will electrify as part of the 2021 Integrated Rail Plan.

map showing proposed phases of railway electrification in North England
Map showing priority order of electrification in North England. Credit: RIA

It also highlights a range of connections between major towns and cities in the North as “first priority”, including:

  • Sheffield to Doncaster/Moorthorpe
  • Manchester Victoria to Leeds via Bradford Interchange
  • Northallerton to Saltburn via Middlesborough
  • Manchester to Sheffield (Hope Valley)
  • Leeds to Hull

The report shows that, even on existing electrified routes, there are still high proportions of both passenger and freight services using diesel propulsion, due to other sections of the journey not being electrified. Further electrification will allow the removal of diesel passenger trains and will enable the rail freight industry to invest in new electric locomotives.

These continuity gaps, according to the report, could be bridged by the creation or procurement of multi-traction passenger units that can operate with and without Overhead Line Electrification. It also points to the benefits of a more homogenous fleet when it comes to maintenance and compatibility.

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By GlobalData

“Rail will be essential for the UK to reach its net-zero transport targets, as a clean form of mass transit. However, many of the North’s major freight and passenger routes continue to rely on diesel trains and critical connections between some of our largest cities are in need of major upgrades,” said RIA North chair Justin Moss.

“Whilst we have seen some progress with commitments from the UK Government in the IRP, these do not go far or fast enough to reach our climate targets.”

The UK Transport Secretary confirmed on 19 October that plans to create a new body to run Britain’s railways have been delayed, stating during a Transport Committee session that Great British Railways will not go ahead in this parliamentary session.