Transport minister Jo Johnson has outlined the governmentâ€™s ambition to remove diesel-only trains from the UKâ€™s rail networks by 2040, in a speech today.
Mr Johnson said the measure would reduce pollutants and improve air quality, particularly in semi-enclosed stations.
The goal will sit alongside the governmentâ€™s ambition to end the sale of petrol and diesel-only cars by the same date (see airqualitynews.com story).
Alternatives to diesel could include bi-mode trains with batteries alongside diesel engines, or hydrogen powered trains, which the Minister said he would like to see trialled in the UK â€˜as soon as possibleâ€™.
Speaking at a conference in London today, Mr Johnson, said: â€œI would like to see us take all diesel-only trains off the track by 2040.
â€œIf that seems like an ambitious goal – it should be and I make no apology for that. After all, weâ€™re committed to ending sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040. If we can achieve that, then why canâ€™t the railway aspire to a similar objective?
â€œRail may be less carbon intensive than road transport. Thatâ€™s why modal shiftâ€™s so important.â€
The minister added that â€˜total electrificationâ€™ of the UKâ€™s rail network is â€˜unlikelyâ€™ to be the only cost-effective means of â€œsecuring these environmental benefitsâ€ and suggested that a range of technology options could be employed to replace diesel-only trains on networks.
He said: â€œNew bi-modes trains are a great bridging technology to other low emission futures.
â€œBi-mode trains fitted with modern diesels â€“ which we started introducing last autumn on the Great Western line and on the East Coast Main Line in 2018 â€“ are less polluting than the trains they replaced.
â€œAnd as battery technologies improve we expect to see the diesel engines in bi-modes replaced altogether. With batteries powering the train between the electrified sections of the network.
â€œOr maybe in the future we could see those batteries and diesel engines replaced with hydrogen units? Alternative-fuel trains powered entirely by hydrogen are a prize on the horizon.â€
A report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers published last month recommended the phase-out of legacy vehicles such as diesel cars and trains â€“ as well as closer monitoring of air pollution at major transport hubs including stations (see airqualitynews.com story).