Text Size

Current Size: 100%

Make trains cheaper and ban domestic flights to help tackle climate change

11 October 2021

Campaign for Better Transport is calling on the Government to ban some domestic flights and do more to promote rail as a greener alternative to help tackle climate change

The national transport charity is calling for measures to curb the number of domestic flights with a ban on certain routes and the equivalent train journey made cheaper, along with mandatory emissions labelling on airplane tickets. It also wants to see Air Passenger Duty (APD) maintained - rather than cut in the upcoming Budget as the Government has indicated it might - and a frequent flyer levy introduced.

The plan would mean an end to flights between Manchester and London, London and Edinburgh, and Birmingham and Glasgow, with people offered cheaper train tickets instead, and anyone taking more than three international flights a year would be required to pay a frequent flyer levy.

Paul Tuohy, Campaign for Better Transport’s chief executive, said: “Cheap domestic flights might seem a good deal when you buy them, but they are a climate disaster, generating seven times more harmful greenhouse emissions than the equivalent train journey. Making the train cheaper will boost passenger numbers and help reduce emissions from aviation, but any cut to air passenger duty - coupled with a rise in rail fares in January - will send the wrong message about how the Government wants people to travel and mean more people choosing to fly. The Government has led the way with bold climate ambitions, now it needs to take similarly bold actions to make those ambitions a reality.”

Campaign for Better Transport is calling for the following measures to help tackle climate change, reduce carbon emissions from aviation and boost rail passenger numbers:

  • A ban on all domestic flights where the equivalent train journey is under five hours
  • Cheaper trains tickets to compete with budget airlines
  • No cut to Air Passenger Duty and a frequent flyer levy on international flights in the upcoming Budget
  • Stop all plans for airport expansion until 'net zero flights' are a reality
  • Make airlines label their tickets with comparison train emissions so that people can make informed choices.

Campaign for Better Transport is warning that without further measures to help reduce emissions from transport, the UK will struggle to meet its climate commitments. With the Budget falling just days before the start of the UN Climate Conference COP26 in Glasgow, the charity warns that any cut to APD will damage the UK’s environmental credibility ahead of the international conference.

Campaign for Better Transport argues many of the most popular domestic flight can be completed by direct train instead, bringing us closer to achieving net zero carbon emission. When check in and landing times are factored in, many of the journeys take a similar amount of time by train, but the charity argues one of the reasons people fly is the cost of the equivalent train journey and that more could be done to ensure rail is always the cheaper option.

To prove the benefits of travelling by train, Campaign for Better Transport’s Paul Tuohy and Norman Baker ‘raced’ from London’s Piccadilly Circus to George’s Square in Glasgow on Friday 8 October. Door to door the plane journey was two minutes quicker but released almost seven times the amount of greenhouse gases.


For further information please contact the press office on 07984 773 468 (calls only no texts) or


Notes to Editors

from to kms plane journey hrs train journey hrs plane train  carbon emissions flight (kg CO2e) carbon emissions train (kg CO2e)
London Edinburgh 534 3 4.5 £49 £76 131 19
London Glasgow 556 3 4.5 £52 £109 137 20
London Newcastle 399 3 3 £129 £73 98 14
London Manchester 262 2.75 2 £108 £66 64 9
Manchester Glasgow 295 4.75 3.5 £69 £43 73 10
Manchester Edinburgh 281 4.5 3 £64 £45 69 10
Birmingham Edinburgh 394 3 4 £37 £75 97 14
Birmingham Glasgow 406 3 4.5 £39 £63 100 14


Fastest direct flight (where available) according to https://www.finance.co.uk/travel/flight-times-and-durations-calculator plus 90mins check in/boarding and 15mins landing/arrivals.

Cheapest one-way ticket for a journey on 8 October. Prices taken from www.skyscanner.net and www.trainline.com on 28 September 2022.

Carbon emissions include indirect emissions and are calculated by multiplying journey kms by the conversion factor for CO2e per passenger km. Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/greenhouse-gas-reporting-conv....

  1. On Friday 8 October Paul Tuohy and Norman Baker from Campaign for Better Transport ‘raced’ from London’s Piccadilly Circus to St George’s Square in Glasgow by plane and train respectively. Door to door, the plane journey was only two minutes quicker, but released almost seven times as much greenhouse gases.
  2. In April 2021, French MPs voted to suspend domestic flights on routes that can be travelled by direct train in less than two and a half hours, as part of a series of climate and environmental measures.
  3. The Climate Change Committee (The CCC) has recommended demand management to help reduce emissions from aviation with a clear preference for taxes that increase the more and further people fly: https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Sector-summary-Aviation.pdf
  4. Campaign for Better Transport operates in England and Wales. Campaign for Better Transport's vision is for all communities to have access to high quality, sustainable transport that meets their needs, improves quality of life and protects the environment. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).