On 30th October, over 150 delegates from the industry and research institutions attended RSSB’s “Intelligent Power Networks to Decarbonise Rail” conference held at the University of Warwick. This event considered how more energy efficient, zero-carbon technologies could be developed in response to the Transport Minister’s challenge to see all diesel only trains off the tracks by 2040.

The conference was a platform to launch to launch RRSB’s competition which makes up to £1 million available for feasibility studies and demonstrator projects that develop intelligent zero-carbon solutions focusing on high-speed train power, freight traction or the infrastructure to support such developments.

There was also further call for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (joint industry / research collaborations) to develop such solutions to be jointly funded by InnovateUK and RSSB.

The conference heard presentations on various promising developments including Alstom’s UK deployment of hydrogen trains, the joint initiative between Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham to convert a class 319 into a hydrogen train and the hybrid class 165 being developed by Angel Trains.

As electrification is outside the scope of the competitions, the event did not consider any innovations to improve its delivery or reduce CO2 from traction supplies. With electric trains comprising 72% of the UK passenger fleet this would seem to be one of the most effective ways of reducing the industry’s CO2 footprint

It was explained that electrification was a matter for both Network Rail and the Railway Industry Association who have initiatives to reduce its cost. A speaker from Network Rail also advised that the company is to specify the requirement to minimise CO2 in is contracts for electricity supply.

The industry will shortly respond to the Transport Minister’s challenge to remove diesel only trains. As well as mentioning the initiatives mentioned at this conference, sources indicate that this will also highlight the benefits of electrification.

Further information about the competitions launched at the conference are available at: rssb.wavecast.io/carbfreerail.

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