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  • Gareth Davies

Rail Fares Hike Makes a Mockery of Tackling Climate Change. January 2022

The Campaign for Better Transport summed it up neatly: Considering the urgent need to act on climate change, the Government should be making rail the affordable choice. It should have frozen rail fares to match the freeze on fuel duty. Instead, it is increasing fares by the highest percentage for eight years.

Many people, especially those who have to or elect to travel by train, must be wondering if there is any logic in government and business thinking when it comes to reducing the carbon footprint of transport in Britain. Statistical evidence shows that the mode of transport with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions in the UK is the train. The government website gives the following information on percentage emissions by modes of transport in the UK for 2019. The figures are telling.

Transport is currently 27% of UK's 454.8 MtCo2 total net domestic emissions. Road transport is by far the biggest contributor:

Total road transport 91% Cars and taxis 55% Heavy goods vehicles 16% Light vans 16% Buses and coaches 3%

Motorcycles 0%

Other 1%

Total non road transport 9%

Rail 1%

Domestic aviation 1%

Domestic shipping 5%

Other 2%

DRAFTJS_BLOCK_KEY:9ld98The Campaign for Better Transport summed it up neatly:

The situation changed dramatically during 2020-21 due to Covid. Initially, travel by all modes declined dramatically. However, since the easing of lockdown measures in 2021 traffic levels have returned to more than they were pre-covid, whilst public transport recovery is proving far more difficult. This impacts on moves to encourage travel by train and bus rather than the car. Increasing train fares at this time is likely to further inhibit a necessary return to non-car travel.

It is not easy separating the average person from his/her love affair with the private car or changing the structure of our supply chain network to reduce movement by heavy commercial road vehicles. But the stark fact is that road transport is the highest producer of green

house gases. The evidence is there not only in statistics but also in the deterioration of air quality and the overall pollution effect on our environment. Add to this the chronic effect of traffic congestion, not only within our towns and cities but also on our main inter urban transport corridors and it is easy to see that positive action is becoming more than urgent, it is already critical. So where does the decision to penalise rail passengers with fares increase and yet continue a freeze on fuel duty for road users fit into the urgent need to reduce transport’s carbon footprint by influencing effective modal change?

Professionals in the transport and services sector are also expressing concern. GHD recently issued a press statement: GHD, the leading professional services company, is calling for an immediate freeze on rail fares in the UK for the next three years and urging the government to re-consider the recently announced 3.8% fare increase in March 2022, in order to encourage passengers back to the network. This is crucial at a time when rail operators need to significantly increase traveller numbers following a series of lockdowns, and the UK needs to incentivise people to use public transport in order to meet carbon emission reduction goals.

(GHD is a leading professional services company operating in the global markets of water, energy and resources, environment, property and buildings, and transportation.

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