Banning flights on routes with fast rail links could cut UK emissions from domestic aviation by a third, according to a report.
The Intergenerational Foundation (IF) thinktank report found that domestic aviation was responsible for emitting 2.7 megatonnes of CO2 in 2019 alone – the equivalent of the annual emissions from 1.7 million petrol cars, or the energy to power 700,000 UK homes for a year.
If domestic flights on alternative rail routes of less than 4.5 hours were banned, the authors say it would reduce emissions by 885 kilotons – a 33% reduction. The reduction rises to 53% considering Great Britain alone, as there are no rail links between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
The authors of the report are calling for a policy of banning domestic flights, similar to the one implemented in France earlier this year. In April, France became the first country to implement a nationwide ban on short-haul flights where alternative trains of less than 2.5 hours were available.
Disruption to commuters would be minimal, the report suggests, as for two-thirds of commuters traveling between city centers, the train adds less than 30 minutes to their journey compared to flying, while almost a third of journeys they are as fast or faster than the train.
Angus Hanton, from IF, said: “Now is the time to challenge the unnecessary use of aviation fuel. This new, non-green government wants to use the current cost of living crisis as an excuse to keep people on planes instead of taking the eco-friendly option of the train.”
IF says the affected journeys will be only 14 minutes longer on average by rail than by air and will be comparable in price to when rail journeys were booked in advance.
Other policies recommended in the report called for similar measures to reduce domestic flights, including scrapping the millions of free pollution permits given to the airline industry each year, introducing incentives for passengers to travel by train and withdrawing tax breaks currently granted in the domestic aviation sector.
Alethea Warrington, campaigner at climate charity Possible, said: “Travelling by train instead of flying is one of the best things people can do to help tackle the climate crisis. It is ridiculous that the government refuses to adequately support our rail network and yet freely grants tax breaks to airlines that push unnecessary domestic flights.
“It’s time to get rid of domestic flights and start taxing frequent flyers and jet fuel. Then we can invest in the efficient, affordable and climate-friendly rail network we so desperately need.”