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Uptake in electrification leads to CO2 drop on railways

London train

Statistics from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) show CO2 emissions and diesel use have fallen as a result of electrification on UK railways.  

A statistical release from the ORR has shown that carbon emissions from passenger rail have fallen, as electrification work continues and diesel use begins to drop. 

According to the report, there was a total of 5,766km of electrified route by the end of the 2017/18 year. That is an increase of 2% on the previous year and equates to 392km of track being electrified over the year. 

The large jump in electricification comes as part of the on-going Network Rail electrification schemes such as those currently underway on the London North Eastern, London North Western, Scotland and Western routes.

The overall use of electricity as a power source for rail has also risen alongside the increase in infrastructure. 

Electricity usage by passenger rail gew 3.5% while diesel use has remained fairly constant, decreasing by 4M litres on last year. 

Following this move to eletricity as a power source, CO2 emissions by passenger rail have also fallen. 


The report from the ORR explains that despite rises in the number of passengers, and rises in energy usage, the resulting CO2 emissions have fallen due to ’’transition towards renewable energy sources in the electricity sector in the UK’’.

In 2017/18 CO2 emissions decreased by 6.6% compared to 2016/17. 

Railway Industry Association technical director David Clarke, said the findings showed important progress: 

“Today’s findings from the ORR show the benefits of continued electrification of the rail network for sustainability and the environment.”

”It is clear that electrification must be part of the solution in meeting the Government’s challenge to industry to decarbonise the rail network by 2040, alongside emerging hydrogen and battery technologies. The figures in the report clearly show that in 2017/18 CO2 emissions decreased by 6.6% compared to 2016/17 – so we should be accelerating the take up of electrification.

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