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Trains over planes: Why the government should encourage domestic train travel

This report argues that, on intergenerational justice grounds, the British government should be following France’s lead over banning domestic flights with a rail equivalent journey of 4.5 hours or less, by encouraging greater domestic train travel rather than air travel on mainland Britain.

Key findings:

  • Travel by train is seven times more environmentally friendly than flying
  • Travel from city-centre to city-centre is, on average, only marginally slower by train than by plane
  • By booking tickets in advance, the cost of rail travel is competitive with air travel
  • UK domestic aviation emitted 2.7Mt of CO2 in 2019: This is equivalent to the annual emissions of 1.7 million typical UK petrol cars or the gas and electricity use of 700,000 UK homes.
  • Fuel used for road transport is subject to fuel duty at 57.95p per litre with VAT being levied at 20% on the after-tax price of fuel. Diesel used for passenger rail travel is zero-rated for VAT but is subject to fuel duty of 11.14p per litre, the rebated gas oil (red diesel) rate. Domestic airlines pay no fuel duty on kerosene (jet fuel) and tickets are zero-rated for VAT.
  • The only direct tax paid by the aviation sector is Air Passenger Duty (APD) which currently stands at £13 per ticket for domestic flights. This will be further reduced to £6.50 for domestic journeys in 2023.