UK rail decarbonisation: £1 million awarded to sustainable solutions

uk rail decarbonisation
© iStock/Danielrao

The UK’s Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) has awarded £1 million (€1.15 million) to the six winners of its rail emissions reduction initiative.

The RSSB’s Decarbonisation Task Force, established in 2018 in response to then-transport minister Jo Johnson’s call for the full eradication of trains powered by diesel from the UK’s rail system by 2040, has been working towards promoting research and development into solutions to UK rail decarbonisation. While much of the UK’s efforts towards reducing the carbon emissions of its rail network have been directed towards implementing rail electrification, infrastructure demands mean that rail transport fully powered by electricity is not a viable option for a number of regions, particularly in remote areas. The RSSB therefore launched a competition for feasibility studies for other decarbonisation options.

The Intelligent Power Solutions to Decarbonise Rail competition, aimed at developing “novel solutions” to reducing the UK’s rail emissions and “ensur[ing] the [UK’s] railways continue to offer one of the lowest-carbon transport options for passengers and freight”, resulted in six winning projects. The winners are:

  • Decarbonising High-Speed Bi-mode Railway Vehicles through Optimal Power Control, developed by Loughborough University in partnership with Angel Trains, Chiltern and Great Western Railway, will assess the potential of “bi-mode” trains, which run on both diesel and electric power, to reduce carbon emissions;
  • Digital Displacement for Non-Passenger Rail, developed by Artemis Intelligent Power, Direct Rail Services, the University of Huddersfield, Freightliner and Voith Turbo, will examine the possibilities provided by digital displacement technology, which replaces the conventional hydraulic pump with one controlled by an embedded computer;
  • Dual Fuel Locomotives to Decarbonise Freight Operations, developed by G-volution with GB Railfreight, Network Rail, Loram UK, Colas Rail Freight, Europhoenix and Deutsche Bahn, aims to demonstrate the benefits of dual fuel locomotive engines both from an environmental perspective and as a cost-cutting mechanism;
  • Green Valley Lines, developed by Riding Sunbeams in collaboration with Ricardo Energy, Network Rail, Energy Saving Trust Wales, 10:10 Climate Action and Transport for Wales, will analyse the impact of improved energy storage technology and direct supply of renewable electricity across rail passenger networks;
  • Hyd-Energy: Feasibility and concept design of future hydrail enabled railway depots, developed by the University of Birmingham in partnership with Porterbrook and Transport for West Midlands, aims to product a concept design for the infrastructure that would be necessary to support trains fuelled by hydrogen; and
  • Digital Environment for Collaborative Intelligent Decarbonisation (DECIDe), developed by Newcastle University, HS2 and Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway, will use systems modelling to project the potential benefits to UK rail decarbonisation of high speed rail travel.

The findings of the feasibility studies are expected to be published in mid-2020.

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