We can fund a rail fare freeze with a fuel tax on domestic flights16 August 2022
Without doubt, domestic flights are a climate problem. Despite being the most carbon intensive form of transport, flying within the UK continues to be cheaper than taking the train. This is in partly due to the fact that jet fuel is tax free. Where car users pay a fuel tax of 57.95p per litre on petrol and diesel, kerosene when used for jet engines, is not taxed a penny. Not a penny.
With the UK committed to achieving net-zero by 2050, it is absurd that the government continues to give tax breaks to the aviation industry. In the last Budget, the former Chancellor and Conservative Party leader candidate Rishi Sunak, chose to cut the only tax imposed on airlines on domestic flights, Air Passenger Duty, by half.
Quite simply, it should not be cheaper to fly to Manchester from London than to travel there by train, especially when you consider that domestic flights produce seven times more harmful greenhouse gas emissions than the equivalent train journey. If the government is serious about addressing the climate emergency, rail travel needs to be the affordable choice.
This is why we are calling on the Government to introduce a tax on kerosene for UK domestic flights. Fairly taxing jet fuel at the same rate as petrol could raise £1.53 billion which would fund a rail fare freeze for 2023 and help encourage more people to choose the train.
A rail fare freeze is especially important next year as the annual increase is pegged to the previous July’s Retail Price Index (RPI) figure. That figure, due to be published tomorrow, is forecast to be around 12 per cent. Despite a government pledge to spare passengers a double-digit fare rise next year by setting the annual rise at minus RPI, a substantial increase is still on the cards for passengers already facing a cost-of-living crisis. Any rise risks pricing passengers off the rails, opting instead to drive or fly, pushing up our carbon emissions.
Of course, there’s plenty more the government could be doing to reduce aviation emissions. We also want to see a commitment to switching more domestic flights to rail and to making the greenest form of transport always the cheapest.
For now, the only way we have to reduce carbon emissions from aviation is to reduce the number of flights we take. Domestic flights account for 13 per cent of all UK flights, so taxing kerosene is one way to help reduce these and the emissions they cause, as well as encouraging more people to take the train.