Domestic flights are a climate disaster: we need #trainNOTplane

11 October 2021
Domestic flights are a climate disaster: we need #trainNOTplane

The effects of climate change are being felt around the world. The need for action is urgent. So why is the Government considering making it cheaper to fly from Manchester to London, or London to Edinburgh?

These flights produce seven times more harmful greenhouse emissions than the equivalent train journey. They can be travelled by train in less than five hours. And yet the Government is talking about cutting Air Passenger Duty to encourage more people onto domestic flights.

Today Campaign for Better Transport is calling on the Government to act boldly to curb domestic flights. The Government should:

  • BAN all domestic flights where the equivalent train journey can be completed in under five hours

This would mean an end to flights from London to Edinburgh and from Birmingham to Glasgow, with people offered cheaper train tickets instead.

  • NO cut to Air passenger duty in the upcoming Budget

A cut would encourage more people to fly and make a mockery of our climate commitments ahead of COP26.

  • STOP all plans for airport expansion until ‘net zero flights’ are a reality

We’re told that net zero flights are just around the corner, so the Government should have no qualms about pausing plans for new runways until they arrive…

The need for speed

But aren’t flights necessary for some journeys? For busy businesspeople, the argument goes, sometimes the need for speed (to attend an important meeting on the other side of the country, for instance) means flying is the only option.

We decided to put this to the test…

We sent two VIPs of our own, our Chief Exec, Paul Tuohy, and our Policy Adviser and former Transport Minister, Norman Baker, to Glasgow. Paul travelled by plane, hoping to arrive for a sandwich lunch on Sauchiehall Street. Norman caught the train, but would he be in time to catch last orders?

Paul and Norman set off

The pair left London’s Piccadilly Circus at 10am. Norman’s train journey was smooth and relaxing – he was able to enjoy the view and catch up on work. Meanwhile Paul spent much of his journey queuing, trapped in a plane seat, and changing between modes. Astonishingly, they arrived at George Square in Glasgow two minutes apart! Arriving at 15:17, Paul just beat Norman, who arrived at 15:19. But in Paul’s words:

“My journey emitted seven times as much carbon as Norman’s for the sake of just two minutes. Next time I travel to Glasgow, I’ll choose ease, comfort, and a much smaller carbon footprint.”
– Paul Tuohy

Domestic flights are a climate disaster. With the train such a wonderful, green alternative, the Government should put all of its weight behind promoting #trainNOTplane.

Use our quick form to email your MP calling for action to curb domestic flights.

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