easyJet has announced plans to introduce a new domestic flight from Birmingham to Edinburgh in 2020. The flight is expected to run 13 times a week and take 500 passengers each day. In a country where the government has declared a climate emergency and committed to cutting carbon emissions to zero by 2050, the addition of more domestic flights takes us on completely the wrong path.
Research by The Guardian has found that a return short-haul flight from London to Edinburgh contributes the same amount of carbon as the average person living in Uganda contributes in an entire year. Each day flights take off from all over the UK and land in a city only a short train ride away, making the carbon footprint of these journeys completely unnecessary.
When researching domestic flights, I was shocked at the number of internal routes available. There are around five flights every day from Manchester to London Heathrow. By plane, this journey takes one hour and a return ticket costs around £120 when you book a month in advance. However, the train from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston takes only two hours and costs £50 on the same date. Taking into account the travel to and from the airport, going through security and time spent waiting around, surely the train is a cheaper and preferable option?
A lot of the time it’s true that flights are cheaper and drastically quicker than trains in the UK. Where cost is a factor it’s understandable that people choose to fly rather than take the train. But this highlights major faults with the UK transport system; trains should be more affordable and reliable. The systems need to be in place to enable people to make more sustainable choices.
Of course, it’s not always up to the individual; companies often send their employees on flights where they would prefer to take the train. For big companies, air travel is a way to keep up with the demands of their fast-paced work culture. So perhaps it’s the intensity of this work culture that needs to be addressed when it has such deep environmental costs. If we don’t have time to take a two-hour train but would take a one-hour flight, then our priorities are wrong. We’re nowhere near making the changes required to seriously address the climate crisis when airlines continue to introduce more internal flight paths, airports like Heathrow are being expanded, and our Prime Minister continues to fly across the UK on a private jet.
We’re on a strict budget when it comes to carbon emissions. We need to limit pollution by making environmentally-friendly choices where possible. Introducing yet another unnecessary internal flight – on a route where there is already a direct train – is a waste. In an ideal world we would ban all internal UK flights right now, but without an alternative transport system, this isn’t an option. We need to phase out internal UK flights and invest in better, more affordable public transport.