French firm’s eight UK nuclear power stations behind supply to electrified tracks that will power 75% of trains by 2020
The majority of Britain’s trains will be indirectly running on nuclear power for the next 10 years following Network Rail’s agreement to a £3bn deal with EDF to supply electricity to the railways.
At present just over half of rail traffic is electric rather than diesel, but by 2020 three-quarters of Britain’s trains will be running on electricity as another 2,000 miles of tracks are converted, with lines in south Wales, the north-west and the Midlands among the biggest works ahead.
While the French-owned EDF already supplies most of Network Rail’s electricity, the deal puts the company on an exclusive footing until 2024. EDF benefits from guarantees that the railway’s supply of about 3.2TWh of electricity a year will be matched by energy generated from the company’s eight nuclear power stations.
David Higgins, Network Rail’s chief executive, said: “Rail is already the greenest form of public transport and this partnership with EDF Energy will help us make it greener still. Our work to electrify hundreds of miles of railway represents the biggest programme of rail electrification in a generation and will provide faster, quieter and more reliable journeys for millions of passengers every week while cutting the cost of the railway.”
Vincent de Rivaz, EDF Energy’s chief executive, said: “Network Rail is the biggest single electricity customer in the UK so this long-term deal is a massive vote of confidence in our nuclear backed energy.”
Electric trains are regarded by some as not only quieter and potentially more environmentally friendly than their diesel counterparts, but also as causing less wear and tear to the tracks.