Banning flights on UK roads with fast rail links ‘could cut flight emissions by a third’ | Railway industry

Banning flights on routes with fast rail links could cut the UK’s emissions from domestic aviation by a third, according to a report.

The Intergenerational Foundation (IF) think tank report found that domestic aviation was responsible for emitting 2.7 megatonnes of CO2 in 2019 alone – the equivalent of the annual emissions of 1.7 million petrol cars or the energy needed to power 700,000 UK homes for a year.

If domestic flights on routes with a rail alternative of less than 4.5 hours were banned, the authors say this would reduce emissions by 885 kilotonnes, or a 33% reduction. The reduction increases to 53% if only Great Britain is taken into account, as there are no rail links between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

The report’s authors call for a domestic flight ban policy similar to that put in place in France earlier this year. In April, France became the first country to implement a national ban on short-haul flights where alternative trains of less than 2.5 hours were available.

Disruption to commuters would be minimal, the report says, as for two-thirds of passengers traveling between city centers, taking the train adds less than 30 minutes to their journey compared to flying, while almost a third journeys are as fast or faster by train.

Angus Hanton of IF said: “Now is the time to challenge the wasteful use of aviation fuel. This new non-green government wants to use the current cost of living crisis as an excuse to keep people on planes rather than take the green option of train travel.

IF says the affected routes would take on average only 14 minutes longer by train than by plane, and would be comparable in price when train journeys were booked in advance.

Other policies recommended by the report called for similar measures to reduce domestic flying, including scrapping the millions of free pollution permits given to the aviation industry each year, introducing incentives for passengers to travel by train and the abolition of tax breaks currently granted to the national aviation sector.

Alethea Warrington, campaigner for climate charity Possible, said: “Traveling by train rather than plane is one of the best things people can do to help tackle the climate crisis. It is ridiculous that the government refuses to adequately support our rail network, yet freely gives airlines tax breaks that push unnecessary domestic flights.

“It’s time to get rid of domestic flights and start taxing frequent flights and jet fuel. Then we can invest in the efficient, affordable and climate-friendly rail network that we desperately need.

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