It is always good to hear from our readers. Recently, Jack Smith, a Network Rail overhead conditional renewals engineer, sent us his paper ‘The Impact on Electrification behind the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail (WS-PFR)’ which he thought might be of interest. We agreed.
Jack’s paper considers whether the WS-PFR might result in more electrification. To do so, he surveyed two different groups. Group One comprised 20 staff working across the business in the planning, development, delivery, design, or management of electrification. Group Two consisted of 10 more senior professionals throughout the industry. The response rate from Group One and Group Two was, respectively, 50% and 80%. Jack concluded that the lower response rate from Group One reflected a low understanding of the WS-PFR’s proposals.
His survey asked three questions:
- Have you read the WS-PFR?
- How do you think it will impact electrification?
- How do you think the WS-PFR will affect the wider business?
The responses showed that Group One (those directly responsible for delivery) had a low understanding of the WS-PFR and its proposals, whereas Group Two (senior professionals) clearly understood it and made significant comments.
These included the need to reduce electrification costs and why this needs a rolling programme. Comments also acknowledged the valuable work done to reduce electrification clearances. Network Rail Programme Manager Justin Davis commented that WS-PFR should reduce project overhead costs as it should “remove supplier, client layers and conflicting views and interests by a centralised controlling mind.”
Network Rail’s CEO, Andrew Haines considers that Great British Railways (GBR) will be able to better plan access by balancing “the trade-off between line closures and the revenue loss that occurs as result.” He also stressed the crucial important of cost reduction as decision makers consider that “even diesel trains are relatively green when compared to, for instance, road freight. Therefore, the decarbonisation benefit per pound spent in the railway is not as high as in other sectors.”
The report concluded that:
- It is fair to conclude that electrification is a future proof technology that is a good investment offering larger passenger and freight services as well as greater employment opportunities.
- That the UK government is on board to make electrification the top of the hierarchy of choices. Hence the future of electrification looks very safe provided that costs can be contained.
Whilst the first conclusion cannot be denied, the second is doubtful as shown by UK Government inaction. Although WS-PFR is upbeat about electrification there is, as yet, no commitment to the required electrification rolling programme.