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Airlines and drivers should pay higher taxes to reflect carbon cost, train firms say

Image credit: REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo

Train firms in the UK have called on the Government to impose higher taxes on road and aviation fuel while cutting their own levies to more truly reflect the environmental cost of these different modes of transport.

Currently, fuel for passenger aircraft is exempt from tax, whereas rail companies have seen levies on electricity to power trains more than double in the past four years.

According to the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), taxes now make up almost 40 per cent of the total electricity costs for train operators despite the fact that they have been shown to have a much lower carbon impact per passenger compared to other forms of transport.

According to the European Environment Agency, train travel has by far the lowest carbon impact - around a third less per passenger compared to even small cars. They are also around 20 times more carbon efficient when compared to planes.

RDG’s proposals, which have been submitted in order to influence the Government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan, could mean increasing taxes on air routes which are in direct competition with trains to reduce prices for long-distance rail fares.

This would incentivise people to take lower-carbon forms of transport when traveling in Britain or to international destinations that are easily reachable by rail, such as Paris or Amsterdam.

The RDG also called for reform of outdated rail fare regulations which would allow them to offer savings for long-distance passengers by abolishing the cliff-edge between peak and off-peak prices. This would also help to reduce overcrowding on the busiest trains, which the RDG estimates would encourage 300 million more people to travel by train over the next decade.

Robert Nisbet, RDG director of nations and regions, said: “To help Britain reach its target of net zero emissions, transport taxes should reflect how polluting a journey really is and encourage people to make greener choices.

“Rail is already an environmentally friendly way to travel and a fairer playing field on tax combined with reform of fares regulations could see trains play an even bigger role in helping Britain to go green.”

Along with levelling the tax playing field and reform of rail fare regulations, train operators also called for incentives for companies to switch from road freight to rail freight to help cut traffic jams and reduce emissions; a rolling programme of electrification that will build on the work that has already been carried out, and carbon targets that will be included within future management contracts.

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