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EDF Energy signs £3bn deal with Network Rail to supply nuclear-generated electricity

15 January 2013

Some 75% of Britain's trains will be indirectly running on nuclear power for the next 10 years following Network Rail's agreement to a £3bn deal with the UK subsidiary of French state-owned utility EDF to supply electricity to the railways.

Just over half of rail traffic is electric rather than diesel at present, but by 2020 three-quarters of Britain's trains will be running on electricity as another 2,000 miles of track are converted, with lines in south Wales, the north-west and the Midlands among the most significant projects scheduled.

EDF Energy already supplies most of Network Rail's electricity, but this deal makes the company the exclusive supplier until 2024. EDF’s eight nuclear power stations will ensure the railway's supply of about 3.2TWh of electricity a year.

Network Rail will purchase power up to ten years in advance under the deal, a privilege which the companies said "helps to deliver greater certainty over costs and significantly reduce exposure to short term, volatile energy prices." This kind of long-term arrangement is made possible by the economics of nuclear power, which feature high costs for construction and capital but low and predictable fuel and operating costs.

David Higgins, Network Rail's chief executive, said: "Rail is already the greenest form of public transport and this partnership with EDF Energy will help us make it greener still. Our work to electrify hundreds of miles of railway represents the biggest programme of rail electrification in a generation and will provide faster, quieter and more reliable journeys for millions of passengers every week, while cutting the cost of the railway."

Vincent de Rivaz, EDF Energy's chief executive, said: "Network Rail is the biggest single electricity customer in the UK so this long-term deal is a massive vote of confidence in our nuclear backed energy."

Electric trains are regarded by some as not only quieter and potentially more environmentally friendly than their diesel counterparts, but also as causing less wear and tear to the tracks.

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