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CEO Thoughts: How Siemens see Decarbonisation Unfolding in Scotland

3 min

The electrification of rail and the introduction of hydrogen trains are essential if Scotland will meet their ambitious climate goals. Quadrant Transport sits down with Will Wilson, CEO of Siemens Mobility, to discuss decarbonisation in Scotland. 

To achieve net zero in the tight timeframe of 2035, the central and devolved governments must work collaboratively with the supply chain. A constant dialogue is needed to discuss new and existing technology and how it can improve the rail sector. 

Will Wilson started the interview by discussing this key point. He explained: “It [collaboration with the government] is already going very well, but the government needs to add more action today. In what is an aggressive timeline, 2035 is not far away.”

Current plans in Scotland requires some 1,800 single track kilometres (STK) of electrification to be identified, to help meet 2035 targets. These targets are enshrined in law, so the supply chain must have the resources to meet the challenging demands. 

Holistic approach will see decarbonisation become successful

To do this, Scotland’s railway needs to be seen with holism. Will added to this, telling Quadrant Transport: “There are several aspects to this; the first is that the railway has to be an alternative to using private motor vehicles and therefore looking at it as one system and a passenger perspective means we can move forwards in creating something friendly to the passenger.”

“Secondly, taking away the conflicts between the operators and the infrastructure owners can only enhance the ability to get a unified available railway,” he added. 

Hydrogen will undoubtedly play a key role in the rail sector, despite current infrastructure barriers. Speaking positively about the future of green hydrogen production for the transport sector, Will said: “Technology with the advent of hydrogen trains and battery-powered is in its most formative stage of development. We have seen prototypes operating in Germany, both battery and hydrogen.” 

Barriers to hydrogen and MaaS need to be overcome

Despite the optimism, there are many barriers to overcome. Universities in Birmingham have been producing hydrogen train retrofits in the UK but it is not a product that can be taken directly onto the track today.  

We have a huge supply chain issue, we have distribution issues, we don’t have any green hydrogen to burn within the operation

Combined with this is the whole question of modal shift, utilising tools such as integrated apps and MaaS, where you can buy one ticket for the bus, tram or train, so you have a seamless and economically journey from A to B. 

Will explained: “It is about making it seamless. At the moment, you can see loads of different ticketing options for the journey you want to take. MaaS should give you the best value tickets depending on time and journey.”

When you extend it out to the other modes of transport, it is about making sure you can get it from your front door to your desk. Currently, this does not exist anywhere in the UK. 

Other countries, such as Denmark are making significant progress within this area, and Scotland may use this as a blueprint in the future.

 It must start with ticketing reform and then into other areas of transportation

Rounding up the interview, Will gave his recommendations: “It would be to make a decision about electrification, decided whether discontinuous electrification is a real move forward and look at ticketing reforms alongside net zero plans.” 

Replacing the ageing fleet, some of which is 25-30 years old, is also a step that needs taking. Replacing these trains with hydrogen and electric will go a long way to reaching 78% of its net zero targets by 2035.