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Closed petition Ban domestic flights on routes that can be travelled by train in under 4.5 hours

Follow France’s lead and remove air routes where there is a direct rail link of 4.5 hours or less, to help rapidly bring emissions down in line with the UK’s legally-binding net zero targets.

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With rail emissions approx 13 times lower than air, removing the option to fly would make a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

At a time when we need to do all we can to cut carbon, we should follow the lead of France and Spain who have banned, or are considering banning, domestic routes where rail provides a viable alternative.

The 4.5 hour cut-off includes Lon-Edinburgh and Lon-Glasgow, two of the UK’s most-used flight routes, where journey times are comparable with rail.

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Government responded

This response was given on 21 May 2024

Domestic aviation is vital for the economy, connectivity, and jobs.
Our Jet Zero Strategy focuses on the development of decarbonisation technologies in a way that maintains these benefits.

The French law applies to short-haul internal flights where the same journey could be made by train in under 2.5 hours. If the UK were to align with this pledge the only current domestic aviation routes that would be captured are between London and Manchester and Exeter. These routes carries less than 1% of domestic aviation passengers in 2019.

We agree that it is critical aviation helps deliver net zero and we are working to decarbonise UK aviation as a whole. In July 2022, we published our Jet Zero Strategy setting out the Government’s approach to achieving net zero 2050, or ‘Jet Zero’, for UK aviation.

Our analysis in the strategy shows UK aviation can achieve Jet Zero by 2050 by focusing on new fuels and technology, with knock-on economic and social benefits, and without needing to limit demand.

Our approach is based on the guiding principles of international leadership, recognising aviation is a global sector requiring global solutions; delivering in partnership, working with industry and academia; and maximising the opportunities, such as the jobs, growth and innovation, that decarbonisation can bring. These overarching principles are supported by six core policy measures:

• System efficiencies: improving the efficiency of our existing aviation system, including our airports, airspace, and the aircraft we use.

• Sustainable aviation fuels (SAF): building a thriving UK SAF industry, bringing UK innovations to the commercial market, supporting thousands of green jobs, and supporting the UK’s fuel security.

• Zero emission flight: developing in the UK and bringing into service novel exciting, forms of aircraft that offer the potential for zero carbon tailpipe emissions.

• Markets and removals: creating successful carbon markets and investing in greenhouse gas removals to abate residual emissions in 2050.

• Influencing consumers: preserving the ability for people to fly whilst supporting consumers to make sustainable aviation travel choices.

• Addressing non-CO2: working closely with academia and industry to better understand the science and potential mitigations of non-CO2 impacts.

The Government is committed to ambitious action across all of these measures that will contribute to decarbonising the whole UK sector, with examples including:

• A CO2 emissions reduction trajectory that sees UK aviation emissions peak in 2019 and has residual emissions in 2050 comparable to the Climate Change Committee’s Balanced Net Zero pathway for aviation.

• A target for airport operations in England to be zero emission by 2040, with a call for evidence published in 2023, and the Government response published shortly.

• Our work on airspace modernisation enables aircraft to fly more precise routes, as well as operating more efficiently when arriving / departing airports. Our deployment of Free Route Airspace over the southwest of England has already saved 12,000+ tonnes of CO2/year and 150,000 nautical miles of flying, the equivalent of seven trips around the world.

• Our world leading SAF programme, driving demand with a mandate for at least 10% of UK jet fuel to come from sustainable sources by 2030; kickstarting a UK SAF industry with £135 million of support to SAF projects through our Advanced Fuel Fund, and building long term supply through our commitment to design and implement a revenue certainty mechanism to support UK SAF production.

• Investment in research and development for new low and zero-carbon emission aircraft technologies though the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) Programme. The Programme will receive £685m of government funding between 2022 and 2025, and a further £975m between 2025 and 2030.

• The launch in October 2023 of a multi-year, multi-million pound research programme on the nnn-CO2 impacts of aviation, which will include both industry and academic led projects to better understand the complete environmental impact of aviation, and the technological and policy mitigations required to address it.

Domestic aviation accounts for around 5% of UK aviation emissions, and through the Jet Zero Strategy, the Government has set a target for UK domestic aviation to reach net zero by 2040, ten years ahead of the economy-wide target.

Emissions from domestic aviation are also capped as part of the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and we have recently tightened the cap on the UK ETS to further drive down emissions and keep us on track to achieve net zero 2050.

The UK the Government is also continuing to invest in building new rail infrastructure by delivering HS2 between Euston in central London and the West Midlands as planned. HS2 is now well into the build and construction phase, with around 350 active construction sites and high-speed services remain on track to commence between 2029 and 2033.

Department for Transport