Report: Cross-border rail journeys slashing emissions

A major shift in travel habits among people travelling across the Scottish border over the past decade has saved almost 700,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, a new report has claimed.

Rail’s market share for trips between Central Scotland and London grew from 20% to 33% between 2005 and 2015, according to researchers. The carbon savings from this shift is thought to be the equivalent of removing all traffic on the M8 travelling between the outskirts of Glasgow and Edinburgh for two years.

Researchers at consultancy Transform Scotland say it is important for further action to be taken to ensure that rail reaches a 50% market share of the Scotland-London travel market over the next decade, if Scotland is to meet its climate change targets.

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.”

More investment

The report shows that strong growth on the Glasgow-London route has led to savings of 332,308 tonnes of carbon, enough to take 145,000 cars off the road for a year. For this trend to continue in the future, researchers are calling for the Scottish and UK Governments to invest in train infrastructure and incentivise rail travel.

“We need to see increased investment in the rail network, Government taking the lead and encouraging public bodies to use the train rather than flying to London, and a fairer taxation system for Anglo-Scottish travel,” Howden said.

Further emissions savings are expected through the introduction of the new Virgin Azuma train, which will take regular journeys to London down to four hours. Transform Scotland estimates that while a flight from Edinburgh to London emits 177kg CO2/passenger, and existing trains emit 34kg/passenger, an Azuma will emit only 24kg – 84% less than a flight.

Off track

Green groups have long called for increased policy action in Scotland’s transport sector, where emission reductions are stagnating. Scotland’s new target to deliver 50% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2030 is said to require a drastic upheaval of the proportion of renewables in transport, which currently stands at 4%.

The Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan, released in January, contains new proposals to achieve a 66% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2032, after the country surpassed its 2020 targets six years early.

George Ogleby

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