Big emissons savings as air passengers switch to rail

Virgin Trains claims to have the largest share of the rail-air market for 20 years. Picture: Will Oliver/AFP
Virgin Trains claims to have the largest share of the rail-air market for 20 years. Picture: Will Oliver/AFP
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Scotland-London passengers switching from plane to train have saved the equivalent of the carbon dioxide emissions from traffic on the M8 between Edinburgh and Glasgow, a report revealed today.

News of the environmental boost came as the main Scotland-London train operator announced an 18 per cent increase in passengers in June.

Virgin Trains, which runs services from Edinburgh and Glasgow on the east and west coast main lines, said it also had gained 33 per cent of the market against air.

The figure is one point up on 2014 and the highest for more than 20 years.

Virgin carried 180,000 passengers on the routes in June compared to 152,000 in 2016.

It attributed the increase to improved punctuality, fare cuts, and refurbished and more frequent trains.

It aims to take 50 per cent of the Edinburgh-London market by 2023 with new Azuma trains, which will cut journeys to four hours from 2020.

Virgin currently has 37 per cent of the Edinburgh-London rail-air market, and 27 per cent from Glasgow.

The report - A Green Journey to Growth - by sustainable transport campaigners Transform Scotland - said 681,064 tonnes of carbon had been saved by passengers switching from air to rail between Edinburgh/Glasgow and London over the decade to 2015.

The carbon savings were the equivalent of removing all M8 traffic between Edinburgh and Glasgow for two years.

The report said almost another 600,000 tonnes of CO2 would be saved if Virgin took 50 per cent of the Edinburgh-London market.

Transform Scotland director Colin Howden said: “The Scottish transport sector has failed to take significant action to tackle climate change and has recently become the single largest source of carbon emissions.

“However, one area where there has been significant progress is in Anglo-Scottish travel, where rail’s share of the travel market has grown strongly over the past decade.”

Transport minister Humza Yousaf said: “I am delighted to hear of the increase in the use of our railway, as it is a fundamental part of achieving our greener transport aspirations.” He said the report “showcases the environmental benefits of rail, and underlines the importance of having high-speed rail connectivity between Scotland and London.”

Virgin Trains East Coast managing director David Horne said: “These figures confirm an historic shift in travel patterns towards train.”