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Abolish Friday peak rail fares to tackle emissions, urges charity

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File photo dated 14/08/18 of rail tickets and money. Train passengers will get an indication on Wednesday of how much ticket prices may rise, amid calls for fares to be frozen. Issue date: Tuesday August 17, 2021.
Campaign for Better Transport argues that making trains cheaper would help reduce emissions immediately. Photo: PA

Transport charity Campaign for Better Transport is calling on the UK government to abolish Friday peak rail fares and offer discounted season tickets to tackle transport emissions now, rather than wait until 2040.

The charity said that by promoting rail travel and making trains cheaper the government can begin to reduce transport emissions immediately instead of relying on 2040 road-based targets to use cleaner fuels.

Cars produce more than four times the greenhouse gas emissions than the equivalent rail journey, according to Campaign for Better Transport.

The group is calling for the government to take action and encourage people to choose train travel by abolishing peak commuter fares on Fridays as well as reducing season tickets by a third, both for a limited time.

Campaign for Better Transport also wants rail fares to be frozen for 2022 as rail fares in England and Wales are on track to increase at their fastest rate in a decade. 

Annual rises in rail fares are usually dictated by the July retail prices index (RPI), plus another 1%. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in August that RPI for July was 3.8%, meaning prices could rise by 4.8% in January — the biggest increase since 2012.

Read more: Green jobs: Call to do more to help UK regions losing out

Regulated rail fares in England and Wales already rose by 2.6% in March 2021 — the first time the government lifted prices above RPI inflation since 2013. 

At the time, the government was criticised for further pricing middle income earners out of rail travel and undermining its green commitments.

The plea comes as UN COP26 climate conference in Glasgow comes to a close on Friday.

Transport is now the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 28% of all domestic emissions, according to the Department for Transport

Of this, cars are the main culprit, contributing 55% of greenhouse gases, while lorries and vans make up 32% of emissions.  

Read more: London crowned as most energy efficient UK region

At the other end of the spectrum, buses, coaches and rail collectively account for less than five% of emissions.

Paul Tuohy, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Why wait until 2040 to reduce emissions from transport, when there are actions we can implement now? 

"Driving less and taking the train more will have an immediate beneficial impact on carbon emissions, as well as reducing congestion and air pollution. 

"The government must do more to provide the right financial incentives. By reducing rail fares the government can immediately remove one of the key barriers to rail travel, the cost."

Watch: Top tips for helping the environment on a tight budget

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