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Rail firms blast plan to cut taxes on domestic flights

The Railway Hub

Plans to cut taxes on domestic flights would see thousands of passengers switch from rail to air and undermine the UK’s carbon reduction commitments, rail operators have claimed.

Industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) urged the Government not to reduce air passenger duty (APD) on flights where a journey can be made by train in under five hours.

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Halving APD on domestic routes – which adds £13 to the cost of an air fare in standard class – would see an estimated 222,000 passengers a year shift from rail to air, the organisation said in its response to a Treasury consultation.

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That is equivalent to more than 1,000 extra flights.

Such a transition would increase annual carbon emissions by approximately 27,000 tonnes, the RDG calculated.

It added that if the UK is to meet its commitment of bringing all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, it must take steps to make rail travel a better option than air for journeys where trains are a viable choice.

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The Treasury is consulting on reducing APD for domestic flying as part of efforts to boost UK connectivity.

Regional airline Flybe, which collapsed in March 2020, blamed APD for contributing to its financial struggles.

RDG director of nations and regions Robert Nisbet said: “Rail companies support the Government’s goal of enhancing connectivity across the UK to drive economic growth and want clean, green trains to be the mode of choice for as many travellers as possible.

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“Choosing to go by train is one simple way people can help cut carbon emissions. It’s vital that Government does not discourage people from making green choices about how to get from A to B by using the lever of taxes to make more polluting modes of transport even cheaper.”

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Sam Hewitt

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