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Electricity drives rail travel forward to a cleaner future

A £1.1 billion project has been unveiled by the UK government to electrify the main rail networks, which it's hoped will benefit passengers by enabling them to travel on faster, greener and more reliable trains.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said it is crucial to be 'bold, innovative and forward-looking' in order to create a 'better Britain', adding the programme is 'vital to building a 21st century transport system'.

However, figures from the International Union of Railways reveal the UK is behind other European countries with this mode of transport. A full 100 per cent of Switzerland's rail system is electric, with Sweden's at 77 per cent, The Netherlands' at 73 per cent, Italy's at 69 per cent and Germany's at 56 per cent. The UK, on the other hand, has 40 per cent.

Across the Atlantic, it was announced earlier this month that Massachusetts will receive over $64.3 million (£38.9 million) from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help improve public transit and commuter rail services. Finance will go towards creating new track circuits, power switches and grade crossing improvements.

Elsewhere in the world, China's CNR Corporation is set to supply New Zealand with 20 diesel-electric locomotives after signing a deal with KiwiRail. The vehicles, which have a horsepower of 2,700 kW and a maximum speed of 106 km/h, are due to be delivered in May and August next year.

Phil Jeanes, a transportation expert at PA Consulting Group, comments: "The Government's decision to electrify the South Wales line, Manchester-Liverpool and other lines, at last shows the recognition that rail investment needs to accelerate if we are to reduce long term carbon emissions. However, the reduction in emissions will be minimal unless the production of electricity is also addressed. We are also lagging further behind other countries in introducing high speed rail to compete against the heavily polluting domestic air travel in our crowded skies."

To find out how PA can help you work towards a cleaner future, please contact us now.