Government response to ASLEF petition

09 January 2009

At the end of last year the union added a petition to the No 10 website calling on the Prime Minister to expand the electrification of Britain’s rail network. A response which General Secretary Keith Norman describes as ‘largely positive’ has now been received. It concedes the benefits of electrically powered trains, and says the government is beginning to prioritise routes.


‘It is heartening that the union and the government have shared objectives on this issue,’ Keith says. ‘I hope the promised early progress report will include dates for beginning work, especially as the government looks for ways to boost economic activity in the UK. I would also be happier to see our government looking at a ‘human’ and ‘public’ case as well as a ‘business case’.


The response from the Prime Minister’s office says, ‘The Government recognises that further electrification of the rail network would deliver a range of environmental benefits notably lower carbon emissions and reductions in emissions of local air pollutants. In general, electric trains are also lighter, quieter, more reliable and cheaper to operate than equivalent diesels. In certain configurations they can carry more people as the transformer takes up less space than a diesel engine.


‘The Government is working closely with Network Rail and the wider rail industry to identify and prioritise routes where there is a good business case to electrify. In general terms these will be busier routes where the high initial cost of installing electrification can be offset by ongoing savings from running electric trains.


‘The Department for Transport is monitoring progress on the emerging business case for electrification through the newly formed National Networks Strategy Group chaired by Lord Adonis the Minister of State for Transport. The Group will report on progress early in 2009.’


The union’s petition reiterated our main reasons for supporting electrification – environmental issues, cleaner transport for passengers and drivers, economic savings from electric trains and ending oil dependency.

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