Are trains fit for the future? MPs want industry input

As the rail industry prepares to make pivotal decisions on moving away from diesel powered trains to more environmentally-friendly alternatives like electric and bi-mode, MPs want to understand what is needed and at what cost.

The Transport Committee is calling for industry input on bi questions like what role rail decarbonisation can make to the government’s wider commitments on air quality to 2040, what challenges there are to deploying alternatively fuelled rolling stock and whether there is the necessary financial state support in play.

Launching the inquiry, chair of the committee, Lilian Greenwood, said there is the chance to examine the role new trains can play in reducing the country’s carbon emissions with the number of journeys on the railway continuing to grow.

She added: “Trains and the technology behind them have been evolving since the invention of the railway. With the carriages commissioned now likely to be in service for the next four decades, it’s vital that the government and industry looks ahead to cater for the needs of passengers of the future and ensure they are accessible to all.”

Welcoming the inquiry, Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said it was an opportunity to look at how the sector can smooth out a highly volatile rolling stock market that has negatively impacted the demand for the refurbishment of trains.

Caplan said: “The five years between 2012 and 2017 saw 7,000 new vehicles ordered which, whilst good for passengers, could see some 4,000 vehicles coming off lease in the next few years with no new home to go to. So RIA urges the Transport Select Committee to consider what can be done, as the market begins to slow and the need for a smoother profile of rolling stock work - that balances the use of new and existing trains - becomes even more crucial.”

Furthermore, as the RIA continues to call for a rolling programme of cost-effective electrification, the association say it’s the right time to consider how the rail network can be decarbonised by 2040.

The deadline for written submissions is next month on 23 May and can be done so here.

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