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12% of car journeys must shift to rail by 2050

Britain must see a huge modal shift from road to rail if it is to meet binding emissions targets, new research suggests.

Even assuming half of cars on the road are electric by 2050, it will require at least 12% of private car journeys and 53% of road freight to change to train by 2050, research by the Just Economics think tank states.

The research was discussed by the union RMT at their annual general meeting in Torquay. The union called on the Government to change policy and invest further in rail, especially freight.

Reaching Government emissions targets would bring social and economic benefits worth an estimated £154.8bn through reduced road congestion, accidents and emissions. If current trends continue, 96% of transport emissions will come from private cars and trucks by 2030, the report warns.

The UK is also predicted to have higher per-capita emissions thanFrance,GermanyandItaly, which means that a radical modal shift will be required, as well as investment in rail capcity and greater promotion of public transport over private.

The report reads: “The scale of this challenge is daunting. Private car travel has been increasing its share of transport use for decades, and this trend is set to continue. But the challenge is worth meeting head-on because the benefits could be so significant.”

Report author Eilis Lawlor said: “People cannot be expected to give up their cars unless there is a decent public transport system. Even more pressing is the need to reduce the amount of freight carried by road but the relative cost of rail makes this prohibitive.”

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “Passengers, transport workers and everyone who cares about the environment has an interest in making sure that the Government adopts a policy for rail growth and affordable fares.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]

Image c. Highways Agency


Seb Jackson   28/06/2012 at 16:32

12% increase in rail journeys. Sorry, call me stupid but how, with the drastic increases in fares, is this to be achieved? Is it our leaders intention to price out the motorist, though by their own admission, isn't the railway now "a rich mans toy" This will an interesting issue to behold.

John   31/03/2016 at 23:22

In 2013 638 were made by car, vans and taxis and 72 by rail.. Source Transport Statistics Great Britain 2014. 12% of 636 is a 12% reduction of car, van taxi would more than double the number of rail and the rail figure includes the London Underground. Outside central London the car is the dominant mode, because the alternatives don't exist or are not attractive. It is totally unrealitic to expect that to change.

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