Electrified trains - what are the benefits?

An artist's impression of a proposed 'super express' train for the Great Western and East Coast main lines Credit: PA

10 miles of rail from Oxenholme Lake District station and Windermere station will be electrified following £16 million of funding from the government.

This means that when completed, the line can join other electrified routes between destinations such as Kendal, Burneside, Staveley and Manchester. The work is being carried out by Network Rail.

But what are the benefits of have an electrified line?

Electric lines mean that trains with heavy diesel engines are not needed. Plus, trains don't need to carry their own fuel and fuel is supplied through the overhead cables. Thus, this means the electric trains are lighter than diesel trains.

According to railway-technology.com, electric trains are more environmentally friendly too, emitting between 20% - 30% less carbon monoxide than their diesel counterparts. You can even calculate the amount of carbon you'll be saving with one train company here.

Figures published by the Telegraph in 2009 say that electric trains cost 20p less than diesel trains, per mile, to maintain. Fuel costs per mile is 47p for diesel and 26p for electric trains and even track wear and tear is said to be more expensive with diesel trains.

For the passengers there are also benefits, with Network Rail saying the journeys in electric trains will be 'faster and quieter journeys with more seats on trains and improved reliability on some of the busiest routes'.

There's also a phenomenon called the 'sparks effect' in which electrification leads to more people using the train. It's speculated that this could be because the electric train seems more modern or because of a faster and smoother service.

Also, it could connect stations to a wider network.

Electric trains could mean faster and quieter services for commuters. Credit: PA

Better acceleration in electric trains could mean shorter journey times, too.So far it seems that electric trains are more cost effective, more environmentally friendly and apparently quieter.

Credit: PA

But what about the disadvantages?

The cost of the equipment could be a dusadvantage, especially on long distance lines that don't get many users. Also, if the overhead wiring breaks this can cause a lot of delays.

Upgrading lines could also be costly, especially where obstructions, such as tunnels or bridges, need to be altered.

According to another source, their are additional maintenance costs with electrical equipment but if there is reduced track maintenance costs and enough traffic, the electrification is cost-effective.

Campaigners have long called for the Windermere line to be electrified to improve the service and protect its future and it could be completed by 2017.