'Twisted economy': UK trains are four times more expensive than planes -

‘Twisted economy’: UK trains are four times more expensive than planes

New research has revealed that the cost difference between traveling on a low-carbon train or an emissions-intensive journey is sharper in the UK than in any other country in Europe.

A report published earlier this month by the Greenpeace group says European governments are actively encouraging citizens to travel in the most emissions-intensive way possible, by enabling an unequal regulatory landscape that benefits low-cost airlines at the expense of the climate.

According to research, nowhere in Europe is the cost disparity between rail and air travel more pronounced than in the UK.

The research indicates that trains cost around the continent on average twice as much as flying, but four times more expensive in the UK.

To reach its conclusions, Greenpeace compared the cost of train and plane tickets for 112 routes between large cities in 27 European countries.

The research, “Airline vs. Train Fares: How Low-Cost Carriers Are Ruining the Climate While Unchecked Unfair and Oppressive Pricing Strategies,” found that flights were generally cheaper on seven out of 10 routes, despite being five times more polluting than flying.

Flights were consistently cheaper than train tickets on all 12 of the UK routes included in the study, including domestic routes between London and Scotland and international routes to Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, ​​Marseille and Amsterdam.

For example, it was found that traveling from Barcelona to London by train is on average 10 times more expensive than traveling. The price difference widened even more for tickets booked at short notice, with the train ticket costing in some cases 30 times more than the flight.

Similarly, it was found that the journey between Edinburgh and London was “systematically cheaper by plane”, resulting in 3.4 million passengers a year traveling between the two cities annually by air, despite there being dozens of trains each day.

Greenpeace said the fare differential was the result of unequal regulatory opportunities, driving up emissions and rewarding low-cost airlines with questionable hiring practices.

While airlines do not pay kerosene tax or value-added tax throughout Europe, train operators pay energy taxes, value-added tax and high rail fees in most European countries. In the UK, operators are exempt from VAT, but are notorious for charging some of the highest ticket prices in Europe.

Doug Parr, director of policy at Greenpeace, said: “With millions of Britons out on their European journeys – many to regions scorched by this historic heatwave – the twisted economy of the transport industry means they are being encouraged to continue throwing fuel into climate hell.” “Flying seems like a bargain only because the cost of pollution is so cheap. Low-cost airlines pay little tax while imposing low wages and poor conditions on staff.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, a keen user of domestic and private flights, came under fire when, as an adviser, he slashed the passenger tax on UK flights in October 2021, just days before Glasgow hosts the COP26 climate summit.

Greenpeace has called for a ban on short-haul trips where there is a reasonable alternative to rail — a policy adopted earlier this year in France — and for an end to subsidies for airlines and airports, starting with the abolition of tax breaks for kerosene and the introduction of a recurring travel tax.

It also called on European governments to introduce “climate tickets” – simple, long-term tickets valid for all modes of public transport in a country or region.

In response to the report, a government spokesperson said: “We are committed to decarbonising air travel without having to reduce demand. The Jet Zero strategy sets out our approach to net zero aviation by 2050, and recent reforms to the air passenger tax mean those who travel the furthest, and have the greatest impact on emissions, pay the most.”

The report follows analysis earlier this month from Transport and the Environment, which calculated that governments across Europe lose $38.05 billion annually in revenue due to loopholes in the aviation tax.