Freightliner, one of the UK’s biggest rail freight companies, has begun to mothball its electric locomotives and switch back to diesel trains because of the unfolding energy crisis. The firm says a surge in wholesale energy prices and an increase in track access charges has made the low-carbon trains uneconomical.
The company said: “As a result of soaring prices in the UK’s wholesale electricity market, the price Network Rail charges us to operate electric train services has increased by more than 210% between September and October. This unprecedented rise in electricity charges has resulted in a sharp increase in the cost of operating electric freight services. As a result, Freightliner has taken the difficult decision to temporarily replace electric freight services with diesel-hauled services, in order to maintain a cost-effective option for transporting vital goods and supplies across the UK.”
ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, has called on the government to intervene. Mick Whelan, ASLEF’s general secretary, said: “It is utterly ridiculous that, a few weeks before COP26, when we will be looking to our politicians to plan for a green future, and a sustainable economy, to save our planet, environmentally-friendly electric locomotives are being replaced by diesel-powered units to haul goods around the country.
“Moving freight across the UK by rail rather than road is, inherently, a carbon-efficient mode of transport and an environmentally-friendly way of doing business. Electric-hauled freight services reduce emissions by 99%; even moving goods by diesel traction reduces emissions by 76%. But this backwards step – forced on the freight industry by government inaction – will drive a freight train through our green credentials and make our targets that much harder to achieve.
“We need the government to do the right thing for people, the right thing for business, and the right thing for our rail network. Because it is also the right thing for our planet.”