New research shows benefits of net zero railway

A new report suggests that building Britain’s net zero railway could create 6,000 long term jobs in the sector nationally between 2024 and 2050 and support the growth of emerging high-value manufacturing sectors.

The study, ‘Catalysing a green recovery’, was commissioned by the Rail Delivery Group and assesses the jobs and other economic benefits that could be created by electrifying remaining parts of the rail network and building hydrogen, battery and electric trains that will be needed where electrification isn’t feasible. The report uses research and analysis by economists at Oxera, jobs and skills experts at the National Skills Academy for Rail, and rolling stock consultants Ipex.

The rail network is the single largest consumer of electricity in the country, and will require large amounts of renewable power, as well as hydrogen and battery storage. A commitment by government to fund the decarbonisation of the rail network would therefore drive investment and create more jobs in existing renewables like wind and solar farms. 

The government is aiming for Britain to have 5GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 and hydrogen trains would require between 2-5GWh of power, meaning rail could play the role of an ‘anchor tenant’, enabling the emerging hydrogen industry to scale-up and potentially become an exporter of British expertise. Similarly, a clear and predictable demand for new energy storage solutions would stimulate the development of the industry, particularly in the automotive manufacturing hub of the Midlands. 

Building the infrastructure and investing in the technology to make running trains net zero will contribute to the government’s levelling-up agenda with more than 90% of the almost 6,000 new jobs located outside London and the South East. Over half of the roles would be high-skilled and all together would generate £2.2bn in economic benefits.

For passengers, the immediate and most tangible benefits to a decarbonised railway would be faster, smoother, more reliable and quieter journeys. The research also shows that a net zero railway would cut 33 million tonnes of carbon emissions.

Andy Bagnall, Director General at the Rail Delivery Group, said: “Trains are already one of the greenest forms of transport and this report shows the considerable benefits of government working with rail companies to go even further by making all trains net zero to run.

“Building Britain’s cleaner and greener railway is a once-in-a-generation opportunity not only to help protect the environment but also to create high skill, well paid jobs across the country both in rail and in the green industries of the future such as hydrogen and battery power. Investing in decarbonising the railway really is a win win.”

The report can read here.

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