UK railways lagging behind on electrification

Rail campaigners have declared that Britain has “a lot of catching up to do” after latest figures show the proportion of the network that is electrified has remained virtually unchanged over the past decade.

Of the 2,776km of rail track in Scotland, only 25.3 per cent, or 711km, of that has been electrified. Picture: John Devlin
Of the 2,776km of rail track in Scotland, only 25.3 per cent, or 711km, of that has been electrified. Picture: John Devlin

Analysis of data from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) shows that 33 per cent of track is electrified, compared with 32 per cent in 2004/5.

The ORR report states there was a net increase in electrified track of only 21 miles during the 2010-15 coalition government – three miles less than what was achieved under the 2005-10 Labour government.

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Bruce Williamson, spokesman for independent campaign group Railfuture, said: “We’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Switzerland has 100 per cent rail electrification and most of our European counterparts have a much higher proportion than we have.”

He said there was “a whole load of negative consequences” from the shortage of electrification, such as slower and less reliable journeys for passengers, and more expensive and inefficient trains.

Of the 2,776km of rail track in Scotland, 25.3 per cent (711km) is electrified.

The Scottish Government is currently committed to a substantial rolling programme of electrification such as the Airdrie to Bathgate Railway and the £12 million Paisley Canal electrification project.

Work is also now completed on the £80m pound electrification of the Cumbernauld line, which is the first major electrification element of the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme.

MPs published a report last week which raised concerns about rail investment in the UK.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee found there is ‘far too much uncertainty’ over costs and delivery dates for electrification schemes.

Chris Jackson, editor in chief of Railway Gazette Group, said electrification was “derailed by privatisation” as it was difficult to put together proposals for the work because costs and benefits were attributable to different sectors of the network.

A Department for Transport (DfT) spokesman said: “We have embarked on the biggest modernisation of the railways since the Victorian times to transform the network and deliver significant benefits for passengers.”

Although the ORR data show the net increase in electrification since 2010 is 21 miles, the DfT said it has “delivered 50 miles of electrified track” in that period.