Scotland business

London-Glasgow passengers choose rail over air

Virgin Train Image copyright PA Media

The proportion of people travelling between London and Glasgow by rail rather than air has reached a record level, according to Virgin Trains.

In the 12 months to July 2019, 29% of passengers chose to travel with the train company rather than fly.

This is nearly two percentage points higher than the previous record set in 2014, during the Commonwealth Games.

Fastest flights between the cities take about an hour and 15 minutes. The train takes about four-and-a-half hours.

The figures released by Virgin Trains show the rise was driven by a 6% year-on-year increase in the number of passengers travelling between London and Glasgow by train, reaching 718,000.

This is up from around 244,000 a decade ago.

Virgin Trains managing director Phil Whittingham said: "The number of people choosing train over plane is testament to the investment and improvement Virgin Trains has made in Anglo-Scottish services over the last two decades.

"This growth is critical in supporting Scotland's economy and helping achieve government targets to decarbonise transport and achieve net zero emissions."

Climate emissions

Colin Howden, director of sustainable transport charity Transform Scotland, said: "The current level of air travel is incompatible with the climate emergency so it's heartening to hear that rail is growing its market share over air for travel between central Scotland and London.

"Comparable distances across Europe use rail rather than air as the dominant mode of transport, so it is overdue for Scotland to take action to cut the excessive volume of flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow to London."

He said rail produced a fifth of the climate emissions that come from air travel.

The boss of the consortium that owns regional airline Flybe recently said he could axe some routes where the journey could be made easily by train or car.

Connect Airways chief executive Mark Anderson said: "We need to be responsible."

Flybe's existing routes include London Heathrow-Edinburgh and London City-Edinburgh.

Virgin Trains has run services on the West Coast Main Line since March 1997 but the franchise is being handed to First Trenitalia on 8 December.

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