UK commits to decarbonisation of rail, with £1m RSSB innovation competition.

The UK rail industry’s leading research and development organisation, the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) has awarded £1 million to winners of a sustainability initiative to decarbonise the nation’s networks.

Following a challenge set out last year by the former transport minister, Jo Johnson, to remove diesel-powered trains from the UK by 2040, the RSSB set up the Decarbonisation Task Force. Since the introduction of that, the group has been on the look out for solutions outside of just electrifying the network, including battery- and hydrogen-powered rolling stock. Johnson said in February 2018 at the time that the UK rail industry’s progress in driving down carbon emissions had – compared with other forms of transport – been “palpably slow”.

On 31 January 2019, the Decarbonisation Task Force and RSSB set out in a report what it saw as a credible set of technical options that would take on the call to action from Johnson. The winning entries for the £1 million joint award will publish their findings in around a year’s time.

A major part of the UK’s reduction of emissions lies in the large sections of electrification that have either been installed or are in the process of being upgraded to accept electric-powered trains. Electrically-powered rail transport remains an unviable option for many remote areas, however, where installing the required infrastructure is challenging or not possible.

The six winners of this decarbonisation award will help the RSSB to provide “novel solutions” to help make the he UK rail industry the most sustainable form of transport for passenger and freight. The six projects are:

1. Digital displacement for Non-Passenger Rail
Artemis Intelligent Power, Direct Rail Services and the University of Huddersfield, will link up with Freightliner and Voith Turbo to investigate the technical and commercial feasibility of using Digital Displacement (DD) technology to reduce carbon.

Digital Displacement offers a cost-effective and achievable route to decarbonise our rail sector

Digital Displacement offers a cost-effective and achievable route to decarbonise our rail sector

2. Decarbonising High-Speed Bi-mode Railway Vehicles through Optimal Power Control
Loughborough University, in collaboration with Angel Trains, Chiltern and Great Western Railway, will look into minimising the carbon dioxide generated by bi-mode electric vehicles.

3. Duel fuel locomotives to decarbonise freight operations
G-volution, GB Railfreight, Network Rail, Loram UK, Colas Rail Freight, Europhoenix and Deutsche Bahn combine to attempt to convince freight operators to adopt an fuel strategy outside of just traditional diesel.

4. Green Valley Lines
Riding Sunbeams joins with Ricardo Energy, Network Rail, Energy Saving Trust Wales, 10:10 Climate Action and Transport for Wales to use investigate renewable power options to optimise traction energy use on AC passenger networks.

5. Hyd-Energy: Feasibility and concept design of future hydrail enabled railway depots
A hydrogen fuelling system undertaken by the University of Birmingham, Porterbrook and Transport for West Midlands that includes the production, delivery, compression and storage of this emission-free power source.

6. Digital Environment for Collaborative Intelligent De-carbonisation (DECIDe)
A digital engagement programme made in conjunction with Newcastle University, HS2 and MTR, that aims to help promote cross-industry decarbonisation engagement. This feasibility project is first focused on use by HS2 but is expected to also be applicable across the rest of the rail network.