UK urged to ban domestic flights – but alternative ‘way too expensive’

Simon Calder warns Britons about Christmas flights

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The Intergenerational Foundation think tank has urged the British Government to back domestic train travel as an alternative to flying – this will cut greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation sector, it said. The organisation wants to ban internal routes that could be travelled by rail in four and a half hours or less. Research carried out by The Intergenerational Foundation showed that making domestic flights a habit of the past would result in a 53 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from all domestic aviation. It also found that almost a third of journeys are as fast or faster by train as they are plane, with almost two-thirds taking less than 30 minutes extra by train.

A ban on domestic flights could mean an end to routes from London to Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as those from Bristol to Manchester, and London to Leeds. The plane journey from Anglesey to Cardiff could also be cut.

Trains, coaches, and buses are all alternative forms of transport to flying, but would the Britons who usually hop on a plane, be willing and ready to use them?

Stephen Hockley, who works in travel marketing, from Plymouth, has been travelling and writing to make a living for over 10 years. Currently travelling full time as part of his job, Stephen said he has “strong opinions” about the idea of banning internal flights.

For him, the problem is the lack of suitable alternatives to flying. He explained: “Though I think the idea is great, I am super against giving more power to privatised train companies.

“I think they’d use it as an opportunity to make absolute bucketloads of cash, and they’re already way too expensive.”

At the time of writing, a train from Edinburgh to London, one-way and without a rail card, costs £63.40, at 6:52am on Tuesday, November 15, via Trainline. Looking at the exact same date and time, a flight from Edinburgh London costs £47, with Ryanair. The former journey takes five hours and a half. The latter? A speedy one hour and a half.

Stephen continued: “So, excluding trains for most people due to the expense, we’ve got buses and coaches. I think those are great, but there aren’t a great deal of options. So, taking all of this into account, perhaps the best solution is to have alternatives so good that people naturally move away from flying. Cheaper trains, and more bus companies.”

Keyna Jason, a customer relationship executive at an energy company, agreed with Stephen. Originally from Coventry, Kenya is a keen traveller and doesn’t think banning domestic flights is a viable option.

She said: “Prior to the pandemic I preferred going on holiday outside the UK, mostly because it’s cheaper to fly to Paris, for example, than take a train from London. Even travelling via train to Edinburgh is still a hassle for me because of the associated cost and time factor.”

Keyna continued: “In my opinion, if train fares were reduced tremendously and faster trains that can cut journey times from one end of the UK to another were made available, then banning short-haul flights for some destinations would make socio-economic sense first, then environmental sense.

“While the objective is to reduce carbon emissions, the government should also consider time factor. It can take longer hours and multiple stops to reach several destinations within the UK and time is an important factor in today’s world.

“If more overnight or sleeper trains are introduced as an added option to reduce or relieve the stress of travelling longer distances to places that can be reached earlier in the day or later at night, then probably I can see banning short-haul flights as a responsible option. Also, Paris, for example, has double-decker trains that accommodate more commuters, as well as wider train spaces. Most trains in the UK are too compact therefore making longer train journeys uncomfortable.”

Keyna added that “trains aren’t so reliable anyway – there are too many last-minute cancellations, rerouting, and delays”.

“The government should solve that problem first,” she said.

Claire Robinson is of a different opinion. Although she doesn’t think a complete ban of domestic flights is fair, she does believe Britons should be making more of an effort to travel via train or coach, instead of a plane. A travel writer with her own website,, Claire lives in the Cotswolds and travels often for her work. She said: “I think that we should have a credible alternative that means that people are encouraged to make the right choice for the environment.

“If the rule was you can only take a flight if there is no credible alternative, then that would be a sensible idea. A blanket ban is unfair on those people who have no other means of getting where they need to get to for work, etc.”

Claire added that “trains and cars are better and I think they should be incentivised for use over and above domestic flights”.

“For instance, if companies took a lead and incentives train travel for work that would push more money into the network leading to a better experience.”

The people behind Flix Bus UK, who run journeys via coach from and to various destinations across Britain, think that buses are a more than sufficient alternative to flights. Research carried out by the company found that 34 million passengers travelled with Flix between April and September this year, which was a huge 130 percent increase from last year.

Flix prides itself on providing “reliable travel around Britain 365 days a year, going to over 40 destinations”. Prices for journeys also start from only £2.99.

Andreas Schorling, managing director for Flix Bus UK, told “We welcome any measures that will encourage passengers to choose environmentally friendly modes of collective transport.

“Coach is not just the most sustainable option when travelling long distance, it’s great value for money compared to expensive fuel costs and plane tickets. Onboarding is quick, simple, and easy, and allows passengers to travel directly from city centre to city centre.”

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