Electric and hydrogen rail: Potential contribution to net zero in the UK

Kathryn G Logan* (Corresponding Author), John D Nelson, Benjamin C McLellan, Astley Hastings

*Corresponding author for this work

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Electric trains (ET) and hydrogen trains (HT) are considered zero emission at the point of use. True emissions are dependent upon non-tailpipe sources, primarily in energy production. We present UK carbon dioxide (CO2) operating emission model outputs for conventionally fuelled trains (CFT), ETs and HTs between 2017 and 2050 under four National Grid electricity generation scenarios.

Comparing four service categories (urban, regional, intercity and high speed) to private conventionally fuelled vehicles (CFV) and electric vehicles considering average distance travelled per trip under different passenger capacity levels (125%, 100%, 75%, 50% and 25%).

Results indicate by 2050 at 100% capacity CFTs produce a fifth of the emissions of CFVs per kilometre per person. Under two degree generation scenario, by 2050 ETs produced 14 times and HTs produced five times less emissions than CFTs. Policymakers should encourage shifts away from private vehicles to public transport powered by low carbon electricity.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102523
Number of pages16
JournalTransportation Research Part D
Early online date3 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

Bibliographical note


This research was carried out under the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) as part of the ADdressing Valuation of Energy and Nature Together (ADVENT) funded project. Funding was received from the Natural Environment Research Council (NE/M019691/1), United Kingdom and the School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom.

The authors would also like to thank Dr Christian Brand, University of Oxford, for giving them access to the Transport Energy and Air Pollution Model (TEAM-UK).


  • trains
  • public transport
  • hydrogen
  • electric
  • carbon dioxide emissions
  • Trains
  • Carbon dioxide emissions
  • Hydrogen
  • Electric
  • Public transport


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