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Senior politicians join campaigners to call for rail electrification

29 November 2017

Senior Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green party figures today joined campaigners in delivering a petition to the Department for Transport calling on the Secretary of State, Chris Grayling, to urgently rethink the decision to scrap the UK’s rail electrification programme.

The petition, signed by over 14,000 people, was organised by 10:10 Climate Action and Campaign for Better Transport. The petition follows a September open letter in The Times on the issue to the Secretary of State organised by the organisations and signed by over 80 MPs, council leaders, trade unions, NGOs and community groups.  

Plans to scrap the electrification of rail lines in south Wales, the Midlands and the Lake District were announced in the summer prompting dismay from campaigners, rail user groups and local communities across the rail lines. Supporters say that rail electrification is vital in tackling air pollution, meeting the UK’s legally binding climate change targets and reversing the long term underinvestment in transport infrastructure outside of London and the South East.

Max Wakefield, lead campaigner at 10:10 Climate Action said:

“We’ve seen incredible progress in renewable power in the UK over the last few years, but as long as trains continue to be diesel powered they can’t benefit from this clean energy success story. To maintain ambitious action on climate change and protect our lungs from toxic air we need to ensure there are no further delays to getting electric railways back on track and unlocking this potential.”       

Stephen Joseph Chief Executive from Campaign for Better Transport said:

"It's ironic that as progress is being made on the UK's roads away from polluting diesel towards cleaner electric vehicles, the Government is turning back the clock on our rail network and condemning cities and towns along these rail lines to years more of dirty air. At a time of unprecedented awareness of the health costs of air pollution, as well as pressure on local authorities to meet legal requirements on healthy air, the Government must listen to the public on this.

"A commitment to rail electrification would correct the underinvestment in transport outside London and the South East and help meet the challenges of climate change and air pollution."

Andy McDonald MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, said:

“The government should stop pretending that ‘bi-mode’ trains mean electrification is no longer necessary. Bi-mode trains either operate as underpowered diesel trains or overweight electric trains. Electrified rail traction is faster, less damaging to track, doesn’t spew out fumes and noise, frees up space on trains, and is far better for the climate. Britain badly lags other European nations on rail electrification. I call upon the Government to reverse the cuts to its electrification programme.”

Tim Farron MP, Liberal Democrat Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and North of England spokesperson said:

“Rail electrification is absolutely vital if we are to regenerate all the countries and regions of the UK.

“Economic growth, such as it is, is still skewed heavily towards London and the SE, which also receive the lion’s share of infrastructure investment.

“Now is still a relatively cheap time to borrow, and with growth, investment and productivity all down in an economy braced for an extreme Brexit, it is essential that we improve transport in the regions to kick start economic growth in areas that have missed out.

“And this needs to be environmentally friendly economic growth that will assist rather than hinder our war on climate change.

“Sadly the Conservative Brexit government does not seem to care about either growth in the regions or in building an environmentally friendly economy.”

Amelia Womack, Deputy Leader of the Green Party

“The government’s backtrack on its promise to electrify the railways is hugely disappointing for the North of England, the Midlands and South Wales. The decision is not just a betrayal of these regions which face a transport system stuck in the past, but will have an impact on everyone who will suffer the effects of climate change and air pollution brought about by dirty diesel trains.

“Campaign for Better Transport and 10:10 Climate Action have done amazing work giving a voice to rail passengers who have been badly let down by the Government. I urge Chris Grayling to take our concerns seriously. It’s astonishing the Government is pouring money into HS2 to shave a few minutes off the journey from London to Birmingham when we should be investing in cleaner and faster electric trains and eliminating regional inequality in our transport system.”

Hannah Wakley, local campaigner, said:

"Like many cities along the Midland Mainline, Leicester has a problem with air pollution and the Council will not be able to resolve this while there are diesel trains running right through the middle of the city. The government always seems to have money for public transport improvements in London but they are abandoning the rest of the country to live with dirty air. Other European countries electrified their railways years ago and we need to do the same here.”


For further information and requests for interviews contact:

Richard Watkins, Press Officer, at Campaign for Better Transport on 020 7566 6494 / 07984 773 468 or richard.watkins@bettertransport.org.uk  

Notes to editors:

  • 10:10 is a UK based charity that brings people together to take positive, practical action on climate change. We engage citizens and communities in finding solutions that benefit the climate and their own lives too.
  • Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/
  • The full open letter text and list of signatories from September can be seen here