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Rail businesses back electrification and hydrogen trains in the North

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Rail businesses from across the North of England have backed Transport for the North (TfN) to use “targeted electrification schemes” and introduce hydrogen-powered trains on its lines.

The Northern Rail Industry Leaders group (NRIL) has recommended “conventional electrification of intensively used lines”, in its report Building the North’s new railways.

The group has also backed the use of “zero carbon self-powered trains, such as low emission bi-mode, hydrogen fuel cell or battery for through services onto less intensively used parts of the Network”.

It comes after TfN revealed its £70bn masterplan, including plans to integrate Northern Powerhouse Rail with High Speed 2.

The NRIL report sets out 14 recommendations (see below for full list) including working closer with other regional transport bodies such as Network Rail, Transport for London, Transport Scotland, Transport for Wales and emerging bodies like Midlands Connect and Transport for the South East.

The group argues that working with other regional bodies will help to smooth out the current “peaks and troughs” pipeline of rail work across the country.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling dismissed rail industry calls to end the current climate of ‘‘boom and bust’’ funding, during the Rail Industry Association (RIA) annual conference in October last year. Instead Grayling said that the rail industry should “showcase your talent” in order to win more contracts abroad to “fill in the gaps” in government funding.

NRIL co-chair Mike Hulme said: “The coming few years provide a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity for the North of England – and rail businesses across the region are ready to seize that opportunity.”

NRIL recommendations: 

Support

  1. NRIL is ready to work with TfN to become the key industry forum representing the northern transport supply chain, working collaboratively with RIA to ensure the industry is prepared to deliver the efficient, on-time and to cost transport solutions required to underpin economic growth in the North;
  1. NRIL offers to work with TfN and its partners, where appropriate, to support the programme and the recommendations of this report;

Delivering Value

  1. It is recommended that TfN and its delivery partners should reward local economic impact and supply chain legacy within their tender evaluation criteria. This might include apprenticeships and jobs created, a commitment to a regional supply chain or other regional investment such as R&D or facilities;
  1. NRIL recommend TfN and its delivery partners seek to ensure a visible and stable pipeline of work supporting the long term North Strategic Transport Plan;
  1. NRIL recommend TfN work with other transport bodies across the UK, including Network Rail, Transport for London, Transport Scotland, Transport for Wales and emerging bodies like Midlands Connect and Transport for the South East, to align transport investment plans in order to avoid creating peaks and troughs at a national level.
  1. NRIL propose establishing a Joint Working Group with TfN and its delivery partners to support an Early Contractor Involvement (ECI), assisting the identification and future adoption of innovation, so required for the delivery of northern transport infrastructure;
  1. NRIL recommend that TfN work with their delivery partners to utilise alliancing and outcome-based specifications and a whole life costing approach within the procurement process to recognise value and encourage innovation.

Decarbonisation

  1. NRIL propose to support TfN to develop a de-carbonisation route map for the railway in the north with the aim of creating a leading position for both transport authorities and the regional supply chain. This will include the use of targeted electrification schemes, and self powered zero carbon trains, such as hydrogen fuel cell where appropriate;
  1. NRIL’s recommended approach includes for conventional electrification of intensively used lines and specifying low to zero carbon self-powered trains, such as low emission bi-mode, hydrogen fuel cell or battery for through services onto less intensively used parts of the Network. Option selection should be based on robust whole system, whole life assessments.

Digitalisation

  1. NRIL propose TfN and its delivery partners work with industry to establish a digital route map for the North focused on improved capacity, network reliability, and best in class customer experience

People and Skills

  1. NRIL proposes to work with regional stakeholders including TfN, NCHSR, NSAR, and NTAR; to establish a Northern Implementation Plan for the rail sector skill delivery plan linked to the new approach to procurement to increase productivity and ensure that a regional legacy is created through local investment developing a diverse pipeline of skilled workers and technicians.
  1. NRIL seeks the support of TfN and its partners in exploring approaches to improve the uptake of apprenticeships within SMEs and micro businesses (non-levy paying businesses) and generally amongst young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  1. NRIL seeks the support of TfN and its partners a campaign to enable unspent apprenticeship levy from the rail sector to be pooled, directly supporting the realisation of recommendation 12.

Leading Edge Research and Innovation

  1. NRIL recommend that TfN and its partners support the UKRRIN initiative and adopt the policy of using their investment to stimulate innovation and SME engagement in the region to deliver both better projects but also to create a legacy regional capability.

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