Rail Industry Warns Against Cutting Domestic Air Passenger Duty

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) has warned that a cut in domestic air passenger duty (APD) would see thousands of passengers shift from rail to air and undermine Britain’s carbon reduction targets.

In its response to the government’s consultation on aviation tax reform, which proposes reducing the levy passengers pay on domestic flights, the RDG says that its research shows that a 50 percent cut in APD could result in 222,000 fewer rail journeys a year as people shift to flying with air fares becoming cheaper.

This is equivalent to putting an extra 1,000 flights in the air each year, and the RDG estimates that these extra journeys would equate to 27,000 tonnes of extra carbon emissions annually.

GWR trains in London
GWR trains at London Paddington – a rail option into London competing with flights into London City

In its response to the consultation, the RDG is calling on the government to:

  • Make rail the mode of choice for long-distance journeys under five hours by not reducing APD where a journey can be made by rail in that time
  • Level the playing field on transport taxes so that travellers are encouraged to use greener modes of transport
  • Make it easier for people to choose the train for long-distance journeys by making fares simpler so that passengers have a wider range of walk-up prices and it’s easier for people to get a seat as demand is spread more evenly throughout the day
  • Conduct a study to fully understand the impact on other transport modes and climate change by decreasing domestic ADP

Train companies say that while aviation has an important role to play in connecting places where other types of transport aren’t a realistic option, rail is the greenest way to get large numbers of people from A to B – accounting for 10 percent of journeys but only one percent of emissions.

To reach its legal commitment of net zero by 2050, the RDG says the UK government should take steps to make rail travel a better option for people than air where trains are a viable choice, not making taking the plane cheaper.

Robert Nisbet, Director of Nations and Regions at RDG, 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. 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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