Electric train boom signals diesel doom

A new rail industry report says that between 13,000 and 19,000 new electric vehicles will be needed over the next 30 years, of which over 3,000 will be required by 2019. Rising passenger demand will push up the total national passenger rolling stock fleet by anything from 53% to 99%, depending upon the rate of growth.

The report  – released by the Rolling Stock Strategy Steering Group (RSSSG)  – says increased demand will more than double the average vehicle build rate from just four per week under CP4 (Control Period 4, 2009-14) to between 8-12 over the next three decades.

And the number of electrically powered vehicles is expected to increase form 69% today to over 90% by 2043.

RSSSG is a cross-industry body that includes Network Rail, the three rolling stock companies (ROSCOs) and various train operating company (TOC) interests. (The report updates a previous one issued in February 2013).

Its findings are based on three different growth rate scenarios – low, medium and high.

Network Rail single-track mileage – which excludes depots and sidings – currently stands at 19,309 track miles, of which 7,960 track miles (41%) is electrified. The electrifications planned under CP4 and CP5 (2014-19) should raise proportion this to 51% (and higher still in subsequent control periods).

The national passenger rolling stock fleet stood at 12,647 vehicles at 31 March 2014 (the end of CP4), 47% of which were built post privatisation (since 1994). However, 13% of the stock dates from the 1970s. The three ROSCOs still dominate rolling stock procurement, owning 92% of the national fleet.

CP5 (2014-19) will need around 3,050 new vehicles, but three major projects – Thameslink, Crossrail, and IEP (Intercity Express HST replacement Programme) will account for 2,250.

The future is electric – or bi-modal – according to the report. The tide is turning against the self-propelled (mainly diesel-powered) vehicle:

“It is widely expected that present and future EU legislation regarding emissions from diesel engines will make it increasingly difficult to procure and operate new underfloor DMUs (diesel multiple units) with an affordable business case. Legislation prevents any more engines of the present types being manufactured for these fleets.”

No new DMUs have been ordered since 2008, and ‘it is possible that no more than 100 new self-powered vehicles may be required to be built in the next 30 years.’ The diesel fleet share is expected to drop from today’s 31% to around 5%-8%.

The report says that electrification should lead to projected annual rolling stock cost savings of between £346m and £479m, however these benefits alone do not justify a change of traction.  A sound business case has also to be made, which would have to include other factors as well.

642/Mar 14

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