Rail freight

12.08.20

Rail companies call for polluters to pay their fair share

Rail Delivery Group have submitted proposals to influence the government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan in hope of encouraging passengers to make greener choices when travelling in Britain or to international destinations that are reachable by rail such as Paris or Amsterdam.

They have suggested using increased taxes on air routes which are in direct competition with trains to reduce the financial cost of long-distance rail fares.

Currently, fuel for passenger aircraft is exempt from tax whereas rail companies have seen taxes on electricity to power trains more than double in the past four years.

Taxes now make up almost 40% of the total electricity costs for train operators. Studies have shown that compared to other modes of transport air passengers pay a much smaller amount of the climate costs related to their travel.

In their proposals, train companies have also reinforced calls to reform outdated rail fare regulations which would allow them to offer noteworthy savings for many long-distance passengers by eradicating the fine line between peak and off-peak prices.  

They suggest that walk-up fares on 80% of long-distance trains would be reduced and the busiest trains would be less crowded as a result, encouraging 300 million more people to travel by train over the next decade.

By encouraging more people to travel by train, this would support local economies up and down the country, British tourism and hospitality sector which will have been hit by the Covid-19 outbreak.

By spreading demand more equally, a fares reform would also enter better use of space on the tracks, which could further cut carbon emissions.

Statistics published by the government last year show that CO2 emissions from domestic rail journeys are more than six times smaller than a domestic flight and the Independent Committee on Climate Change has foreseen that aviation is likely to become the largest contributor to UK emissions by 2050.

Robert Nisbet, Director of Nations and Regions for the Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators, said: “To help Britain reach its target of net zero emissions, transport taxes should reflect how polluting a journey really is and encourage people to make greener choices. Rail is already an environmentally friendly way to travel and a fairer playing field on tax combined with reform of fares regulations could see trains play an even bigger role in helping Britain to go green.”

Image: Rail Delivery Group 

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