Skip to main content

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Volume 472: debated on Tuesday 4 March 2008

10. What estimate she has made of the effect of extending rail services on levels of greenhouse gas emissions from transport; and if she will make a statement. (190981)

The Department has estimated that the additional rail capacity required by the high-level output specification would result in a net increase in annual transport carbon dioxide emissions of around 102,000 tonnes by 2014. However, the crowding relief benefits of the investment are more than 70 times greater than the associated cost of additional carbon emissions.

Does my hon. Friend agree that later evening services allowing people to leave their cars at home can play a part in reducing carbon emissions? Does he understand my concern, and that of Staffordshire county council and the North Staffordshire community rail partnership, about the current and proposed times of last trains serving both Burton-on-Trent and Uttoxeter compared to the times of last trains serving towns of similar size? Currently the last train leaving Uttoxeter from Derby is the—

My hon. Friend’s point is valid, but as has been said from the Dispatch Box a number of times in the past, the Government are not in the business of carrying fresh air around the country. If only two or three people travel in a railway carriage late at night, that will result in a much bigger carbon footprint for each of them. There is a case for providing later services where there is a demand, but I hope my hon. Friend will accept that franchises are designed following extensive research and consultation with the prospective markets. If there is no market for late-night services, running extra services carrying very few people would do nothing to reduce the carbon imprint of the railway industry.

Electrified rail and light rail services produce lower carbon dioxide emissions than diesel services. What plans has the Minister to increase investment in electrification?

It is heartwarming to see the enthusiasm with which Liberal Democrats embrace new spending commitments, when they dismiss so easily the commitments that the Government have already made to investment in the railway infrastructure. We have made a deliberate and political decision that increasing capacity on the network must be our priority over the next six years. We will spend that £10 billion on, among other things, buying 1,300 new railway carriages. Although electrification will be considered on a case-by-case basis, we do not think it should be given the same priority as the purchasing of extra capacity.