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Using diesel trains on East West Rail would be ‘ridiculous’ says South Cambridgeshire MP Anthony Browne



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The transport secretary has stopped short of committing that East West Rail will not use diesel trains.

Grant Shapps said the company behind the new line is “aiming to deliver an entirely zero-carbon railway”.

Anthony Browne MP, left, at Lowfields, Little Eversden, discussing East West Rail with William Harrold, of Cambridge Approaches campaign group, and resident John Hobbs. Picture: Keith Heppell
Anthony Browne MP, left, at Lowfields, Little Eversden, discussing East West Rail with William Harrold, of Cambridge Approaches campaign group, and resident John Hobbs. Picture: Keith Heppell

He was responding in the House of Commons to question from South Cambridgeshire Conservative MP Anthony Browne amid concerns from residents that the new railway will use diesel trains.

Mr Browne said: “As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on the environment, I am incredibly supportive of the government ambition to phase out diesel trains across the entire UK network by 2040.

East West Rail is soon to build a railway line in my constituency due for completion in 2030. But it isn’t being built as an electrified line and my constituents are very worried they might end up with a new diesel railway line.”

He asked Mr Shapps to commit to work with him – and the Treasury – to ensure that East West Rail is aligned with the government’s ambition to phase out diesel trains.

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary

Mr Shapps responded: “East West Rail, the company behind the new line, are aiming to deliver an entirely zero-carbon railway and are considering conventional and emerging technology solutions for powering trains which could be part-electric and part -hydrogen or battery in the future, for example, so services along the whole length of the route are zero carbon.”

Speaking following the debate, Mr Browne added: “I think everyone would find it ridiculous that East West Rail are even considering building a brand new diesel railway to start operation in 2030, when all diesel trains are being phased out by 2040. It goes against our national ambition to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. It is particularly worrying for residents as diesel trains are also noisy and polluting.

“When I raised this issue on the floor of the House of Commons, I was glad to hear the secretary of state confirm the government’s commitment to building a net zero railway line, and that East West Rail are investigating emerging zero carbon technologies. The energy industry will have changed beyond recognition by the time the railway is operational.

“However, if the government is truly serious about phasing out diesel by 2040 they need to act now. It is essential that the government and East West Rail give a public commitment that the trains on East West Rail will not be diesel.”

Anthony Browne MP. Picture: Keith Heppell
Anthony Browne MP. Picture: Keith Heppell

Cambridge Labour MP Daniel Zeichner has previously called for the proposed line to be electrified. He said: “I back rail but we need 21st-century solutions and that means an electrified, public railway.”

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayoral candidate for the Liberal Democrats Aidan Van De Weyer, who is deputy leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, is also calling for “a zero carbon railway with no diesel trains”.

“The use of diesel trains is incompatible with the climate emergency and cannot be allowed on this new line,” he said.

East West Rail says it is aiming to deliver a net zero carbon railway as part of its proposals.

A spokesperson at East West Railway Company said: “We aim to become a net zero carbon railway by 2050 while making sure biodiversity is left in a better state than we found it. At present, a decision on whether the new railway will be electrified has not been made by the government.

“However, the potential for electrification on East West Rail remains under active consideration. The government has further committed to the removal of all diesel trains by 2040.”


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