In our January issue we reported that France has banned flights between cities linked by rail with a journey time of less than 2½ hours. Other countries in Europe have already enacted, or are considering enacting, similar policies. For example, as part of the Austrian government's pandemic bail-out deal Austrian Airlines is now forbidden from providing flights between cities connected by a train journey of under three hours. This affected the carrier's route between Vienna and Salzburg.
Meanwhile, the UK is travelling in the opposite direction from Europe with the aptly timed 1 April announcement of a 50% cut in Air Passenger Duty (APD).
In June 2021 the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) warned the UK Government that "Cutting APD in half would see an estimated 222,000 passengers a year shift from rail to air, equivalent to over 1,000 extra flights".
A Which? Magazine report in the summer of 2021 found that a large selection of domestic journeys in the UK were nearly 50% cheaper by plane than by train, whilst having a per-passenger carbon footprint six times higher. However, once the cost of travel to and from airports, along with parking charges, are added in, it is true that the difference is smaller, and flying is often not significantly faster between city centres than going by train.
The UK Government ran a consultation before going ahead with the APD cut. In its response RDG had called on the government to:
This appears to have fallen on deaf ears and the UK Government is currently travelling in the wrong direction.