A quick guide to: replacing domestic flights with rail travel

Spending less time flying could be one way to reduce your carbon footprint. For domestic travel, the railway may be easier, cheaper and just as fast.

Before businesses begin exploring ways to travel more sustainably, there are some other options to consider as well. These include reducing the total number of journeys taken where possible, and looking for less carbon-intensive ways of working. A combination of actions like these can really help businesses drive down emissions.

Next, take steps to adapt travel in ways that reduce emissions by selecting the most carbon-efficient way of reaching a destination. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean more time, hassle or money.

Travelling by rail rather than air is one example of a low-carbon choice.

How do rail carbon emissions compare with air?

Compared with air travel, the environmental appeal of rail is overwhelming. According to the EcoPassenger emissions calculation website, a flight from London to Edinburgh would emit 115kg of CO2 per passenger. By train, that figure is 32kg – a difference of 83kg.

Despite this environmental cost, however, many businesses still opt for flights over train for domestic travel. Some, such as travelling from the Channel Islands to mainland Britain, might be unavoidable, but for most routes rail is a viable alternative.

The JetZero strategy

The Civil Aviation Authority found that in 2015 domestic air travel accounted for:

  • 16.5% of all flights or
  • 46 million passenger journeys

If the lion’s share of domestic flights are of a similar distance to that of London to Edinburgh, then the overall added emission of choosing flight over rail equates to roughly 3.8bn kg of CO2 emitted per year – an amount that could be saved.

To tackle emissions in the aviation industry, the UK government’s Jet Zero strategy paper for addressing carbon outlines a target of 2040 for domestic flights to reach net zero. Decarbonising, while retaining connectivity means the government is focusing on ways to revolutionise the technologies needed across the aviation industry: develop cleaner aircraft, produce and use more sustainable fuels, and make our airspace and airports more efficient.

Given the urgency of the climate crisis, many feel that train, not plane, might be the best choice.

Choosing the lowest carbon form of travel

Your options can have significant carbon implications – and choosing rail over a flight could shrink your footprint. There are also other considerations.

The total travel time to Edinburgh, for example, is similar by train as it is to fly when you factor in journeys to and from airports and time spent waiting at them. For many destinations, especially within the UK, rail can take less time and you will arrive in a city centre.

Considering the stress of flight check-ins, and the limited leg room and challenge of working in an air cabin compared with a train, the environmental impact of flying is one of several reasons why taking a train might be a better option.

Choosing a low-carbon approach to travel often requires big changes and can have cost implications as well as a likely impact on processes and strategy. As always, fully understanding the implications for your business requires careful analysis against your needs.

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This material is published by NatWest Group plc (“NatWest Group”), for information purposes only and should not be regarded as providing any specific advice. Recipients should make their own independent evaluation of this information and no action should be taken, solely relying on it. This material should not be reproduced or disclosed without our consent. It is not intended for distribution in any jurisdiction in which this would be prohibited. Whilst this information is believed to be reliable, it has not been independently verified by NatWest Group and NatWest Group makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) of any kind, as regards the accuracy or completeness of this information, nor does it accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage arising in any way from any use made of or reliance placed on, this information. Unless otherwise stated, any views, forecasts, or estimates are solely those of NatWest Group, as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Copyright © NatWest Group. All rights reserved.

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