Minister sets timetable for end of diesel-only trains

Transport minister Jo Johnson has outlined the government’s ambition to remove diesel-only trains from the UK’s rail networks by 2040, in a speech today.

Mr Johnson said the measure would reduce pollutants and improve air quality, particularly in semi-enclosed stations.

Phasing out diesel-only trains on UK rail networks will improve air quality, ‘particularly in semi enclosed stations’ minister Jo Johnson has said

The goal will sit alongside the government’s ambition to end the sale of petrol and diesel-only cars by the same date (see story).

Alternatives to diesel could include bi-mode trains with batteries alongside diesel engines, or hydrogen powered trains, which the Minister said he would like to see trialled in the UK ‘as soon as possible’.

Speaking at a conference in London today, Mr Johnson, said: “I would like to see us take all diesel-only trains off the track by 2040.

“If that seems like an ambitious goal – it should be and I make no apology for that. After all, we’re committed to ending sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040. If we can achieve that, then why can’t the railway aspire to a similar objective?

“Rail may be less carbon intensive than road transport. That’s why modal shift’s so important.”


The minister added that ‘total electrification’ of the UK’s rail network is ‘unlikely’ to be the only cost-effective means of “securing these environmental benefits” and suggested that a range of technology options could be employed to replace diesel-only trains on networks.

Minister for Transport, Jo Johnson (centre)

He said: “New bi-modes trains are a great bridging technology to other low emission futures.

“Bi-mode trains fitted with modern diesels — which we started introducing last autumn on the Great Western line and on the East Coast Main Line in 2018 — are less polluting than the trains they replaced.

“And as battery technologies improve we expect to see the diesel engines in bi-modes replaced altogether. With batteries powering the train between the electrified sections of the network.

“Or maybe in the future we could see those batteries and diesel engines replaced with hydrogen units? Alternative-fuel trains powered entirely by hydrogen are a prize on the horizon.”

A report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers published last month recommended the phase-out of legacy vehicles such as diesel cars and trains — as well as closer monitoring of air pollution at major transport hubs including stations (see story).


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