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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Train wins the fight with flight


Campaigners hail success to push train as a more sustainable mode of travel

Rail has overtaken flying for trips between the Scottish central belt and London, with 52% of trips now being made by train, according to an environmental charity.

The figure is up from 26% in equivalent research carried out by Transform Scotland a decade ago.

The new report, ‘Fight or Flight’, collected extensive Freedom of Information requests to study the travel patterns and policies of over 150 Scottish public bodies, which includes local authorities, NHS trusts, colleges and universities, and a wide range of organisations working in the environment, science, the arts, social care and other sectors.

This progress has been brought about by concerted action by some of the larger public bodies who travel most, including the Scottish Government. However, Transform’s research also finds that the vast majority of the Scottish public sector organisations still have no credible plans to curb climate emissions from flying, with only one in five of the public sector’s top 50 fliers having a target to tackle emissions from air travel, the most polluting mode of transport.

Transform spokesperson, and report author, Elspeth Wray said: “Rail is now winning out over air for trips to London and we’re pleased that Scotland’s public sector is taking action to tackle climate emissions by cutting back on domestic flights. Over the past decade, public bodies have doubled the share of trips from Edinburgh and Glasgow to London being made by train rather than plane.

“We urge all public bodies to follow the example of sector leaders, for example by ruling out flights between the Scottish Central Belt and London and setting strong emissions reduction targets for air travel.”

Ms Wray continued: “There are some great examples of climate-friendly public sector leaders. We’d highlight organisations such as Glasgow Caledonian University, whose policy specifically discourages flying to destinations that can be reached by train in six hours.

“But it’s deeply disappointing that the vast majority of the public sector have failed to target emissions from flying, despite the Scottish Government’s declaration of a climate emergency five years ago.

“Transport accounts for 36% of all Scottish emissions – the biggest emitting sector – with no progress in reductions over three decades. Given that aviation is the most polluting mode of transport, we must work to reduce unnecessary trips by air, with the public sector leading by example.”

‘Fight or Flight’ repeats an investigation carried out by Transform Scotland in 2013 which revealed public bodies’ poor performance on sustainable travel and called for organisations to rule out air travel in their travel plans.

In the past decade, the public sector’s reliance on flying for domestic travel has significantly reduced, with rail now accounting for the majority of trips between Edinburgh/Glasgow and London.

Ten years ago the public sector was overwhelmingly choosing to fly to London, with 74% of journeys made by air compared to 26% for rail.

By 2023, rail had overtaken flying to become the most popular choice, making up 52% of travel.



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