Awards, contracts & appointments

15.11.19

Virgin Trains set passenger record for choosing rail over air

Virgin Trains have set a new record with the number of people choose to travel by rail over air.

The number of people choosing to travel between Glasgow and London on rail instead of air, has resulted in a drop in carbon emissions.

The air route between Glasgow and London is the second-busiest domestic air route in the UK but through July 2018 to July 2019, 29% of passengers chose to travel with Virgin Trains.

The previous record was set in 2014, when visitor numbers saw a spike thanks to the Commonwealth Games, but was still nearly two percentage points lower than the new record.

Passenger numbers have surpassed 700,000 a year, a huge increase from the 244,000 recorded a decade ago.

The push to choose train travel over plane has pushed up rail’s overall market share relative to airlines on total journeys between Glasgow/Edinburgh and London, which increased from 34% to a new record of 35% in the 12 months to July 2019.

Phil Whittingham, Managing Director of Virgin Trains, said:

 “The number of people choosing train over plane is testament to the investment and improvement Virgin Trains has made in Anglo-Scottish services over the last two decades. This growth is critical in supporting Scotland’s economy and helping achieve government targets to decarbonise transport and achieve net zero emissions.”

Sustainable transport charity Transform Scotland carried out research in 2019, showing the carbon savings delivered by modal shift from air to rail between Glasgow and London between 2005 and 2015 was the equivalent of taking 145,000 cads off the road for a year.

The latest analysis shows a drop in the overall level of CO2 emissions on the Glasgow-London route as opposed to the savings generated by modal shift.

Colin Howden, Director of Transform Scotland, said:

“The current level of air travel is incompatible with the Climate Emergency so it’s heartening to hear that rail is growing its market share over air for travel between Central Scotland and London.

“Comparable distances across Europe use rail rather than air as the dominant mode of transport, so it is overdue for Scotland to take action to cut the excessive volume of flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow to London. Rail produces a fifth of the climate emissions that comes from air travel. It’s definitely the greenest option for Anglo-Scottish travel.”

The new record comes as the government works towards its target of net-zero carbon by 2050.

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