The experiment with electric lorries on the M180 (UK government backs scheme for motorway cables to power lorries, 27 July) is laughable when compared with the lack of interest shown by the government in furthering railway electrification at a time of an HGV driver shortage.
Just 8.5% of freight locomotives in the UK are electric. This lags lamentably behind mainland Europe, thanks in part to gaps as short as two miles in the electrified network. Aside from complete routes, there are merely 50 miles in total which, after electrification, could decarbonise over two million annual miles of freight haulage. Just 14 of these miles connect Britain’s busiest container port, Felixstowe, to the electrified network at Ipswich. The gaps exist thanks to electrified lines largely following radial passenger flows from London, whereas freight routes ignore these.
I held an HGV1 licence from 1974 to 2019 and can’t imagine how I’d ever overtake a slower electric lorry. And merge lanes to change routes only where the high-voltage wires are strung? That’s not going to happen. Any advisory jobs going at the Department for Transport?
Your leader (25 July) on the French-Spanish border station of Canfranc and Greenpeace’s “More trains, less planes” campaign reflects the UK’s poor transport policy. The need to be sustainable focuses on electric road vehicles, the support infrastructure for which will not be cheap. By contrast, more than £100bn is being spent on HS2, which could electrify the whole rail network andreduce fossil fuel use and pollution emissions. It is what the Swiss did between 1919 and 1939, and the Dutch after the second world war. Even branch lines that look unpromising can be powered by battery trains, as was the Aberdeen-Ballater line in Scotland, until it was closed in the Beeching cuts. Solar panels on train roofs can provide continuous recharging. But logic is of secondary consideration beside the politics of the “red wall” .
Prof LJS Lesley
Delighted to read that the station at Canfranc is to be revived in style. What a contrast with our own English-Welsh border station at Pilning, long neglected and left with just two trains a week in one direction only after its footbridge was demolished in 2016. And both of those were cancelled last week.