The government is tomorrow expected to announce wide-reaching plans to electrify one of the UK's busiest rail lines as part of efforts to curb carbon emissions and improve reliability.
According to reports in The Guardian, the Department for Transport is finalising plans to install electric cables on the London to Cardiff Great Western mainline. It could also announce a similar upgrade of the London to Oxford commuter line, as well as longer-term plans for other lines.
Speaking to BusinessGreen.com, a spokesman for the Department for Transport said that he could not confirm reports the London to Cardiff line would be the first to be electrified, but admitted that the government's report on rail electrification was imminent.
Electric trains typically produce just half the carbon emissions of diesel trains, but the UK has one of the smallest electrified networks in Europe, with just 40 per cent of lines able to run electric trains.
Earlier this year, Network Rail launched a consultation on plans to roll out new electric lines, which argued that "the consensus for expanding our electrified network is growing" and set out detailed proposals to electrify much of the network.
The consultation was followed by a major report from Network Rail, the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) and the Rail Freight Operators' Association, which also argued that electrification should play a key role in efforts to curb the rail sectors' environmental impact.
Following the release of the report a spokesman for ATOC said that there was a strong commercial and environmental case for electrifiying the bulk of the rail network. "It can deliver cheaper, cleaner and more efficient trains, plus most of the electricity our members use is from nuclear power, so it provides a way of decarbonising much of the network," he said.
The new report from the government is likely to mark the first in a line of initiatives designed to overhaul the UK's ageing rail network.
Last week's Low Carbon Transition Plan mapped out a central role for rail in a future low-carbon economy and transport minister Lord Adonis has in the past signaled his support for both increased electrification of the network and the construction of a new high-speed rail network.
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