TfN has published its Transport Decarbonisation Strategy (the “Strategy”) seeking to put decarbonisation, efficiency and clean growth at the heart of transport investment policy for the North. The Strategy sets out ambitious plans for how the region will go beyond national policy to reduce its carbon emissions from surface transport to almost net-zero by 2045.  

To achieve this target, the Strategy establishes a decarbonisation trajectory with key interim milestones:

  • a 56% reduction in emissions from 2018 to 2030: to be achieved mostly through modal-shift and demand reduction (for example, by encouraging shared mobility and active travel); and
  • a 96% reduction in emissions from 2018 to 2040: to be achieved by implementing longer-term decarbonisation measures, such as ensuring a high proportion of zero-emissions vehicles in the vehicle fleet.

The Strategy also goes beyond considering emissions from surface transport and focuses on:

  • understanding and reducing the carbon footprint of TfN’s organisational emissions as part of its everyday business; and
  • reducing the embodied carbon component of projects in TfN’s Investment Programme (e.g. emissions arising from sourcing raw materials; transporting building materials; carrying out construction work etc.).

Priority activities 

The Strategy identifies four priority activities:

  • identifying appropriate routes for rail electrification;
  • improving public transport including Northern Powerhouse Rail;
  • developing a zero emission vehicle charging infrastructure framework (including the use of hydrogen and alternative fuel vehicles); and
  • developing a regional route map for regional transport decarbonisation.

Key aspects for Rail

  • Modal shift: Encouraging modal shift to rail for both passengers and freight is a critical to achieving net zero. Network expansion through HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail will help stimulate modal shift and TfN’s Freight and Logistics Strategy is expected to focus on how modal shift can be maximised.
  • Decarbonising rail: The Strategy concludes that electrification is the most efficient way of reducing emissions in the long-term and delivers other benefits, such as improved rail journey times and reliability. The Strategy recommends the establishment of a regional plan (based on Network Rail’s Traction Network Decarbonisation Strategy) setting which routes will be electrified and when. It notes that there is potential to develop a plan that cascades rolling stock as routes are electrified to push out the worst polluters.  

Modelling and monitoring progress

TfN has developed the Northern Carbon Modelling Tool to estimate current and future emissions and created four Future Travel Scenarios (just about managing; prioritised places; digitally distributed; and urban zero carbon) to model how trends in society, the economy, national policy and technological advancements could impact future travel demand and affect the decarbonisation trajectory.

TfN is currently developing a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Strategy and Framework (scheduled for completion in early 2022). This will include a set of indicators that will allow TfN to benchmark its progress in relation to transport decarbonisation against its Decarbonisation Trajectory.


It is the first time that a regional transport decarbonisation strategy has been produced and highlights the North’s commitment to tackling carbon emissions with ambitious plans to achieve targets sooner than required under national policy.

With the planet facing a climate emergency, the importance of low carbon transport has never been clearer.  It is, therefore, great to see TfN is committing to take clear and comprehensive action to decarbonise transport over the coming years.