What is wrong with traditional electrification?
Electrically powered railways offer higher levels of reliability, efficiency, cleaner air and lower noise levels than is typically seen from diesel traction. So why not electrify everything?
Whilst many believe that electrically powered railways are generally more reliable and energy efficient than their fossil fuelled alternatives, the counter argument is that traditional overhead electrification comes at a high capital cost and increases infrastructure maintenance costs too.
In the UK for example, overhead electrification of existing track costs of £1m per single track kilometre are often exceeded and even in Germany, (often cited as an example of good practice in Europe, where an efficient programme ensures consistent volumes of work), a cost of £0.3m per single track kilometre is still incurred. This is a heavy investment to make, especially on long routes. On heavily used lines this is often a price worth paying, but where there are lower densities of traffic the capital costs can be difficult to justify, which is where battery traction can be a worthwhile option to consider.
The construction of overhead electrification also takes significant time, with projects often lasting many years once they commence. With the binding commitments made by governments and infrastructure owners to decarbonise transport, the practicalities of completing large lengths of electrification before the deadlines expire remain unproven.