New research work made public for the first time, and launched during Net Zero week, has cast light on the environmental impact of our travel choices.

Transport for the North has analysed a range of journeys across the North of England and looked at the carbon footprint of each when choosing whether to travel by train or car.

Using an average *fossil fuel-driven car and an **average train on a range of different routes, the sub national transport authority has calculated how much traditional coal would have to be burned to provide the energy required for each of the trips.

The results highlight the clear green benefits of rail over single occupancy car trips as well as the value of car sharing over certain routes.

Key findings show:

  • In a single trip from Alnmouth to Darlington a single traveller would use the equivalent of 5.5 kilograms of coal in the car – but only 1.4 kilograms if they opt to take the train.      (Removing 1,000 car trips along this route each year would save 4 tons of carbon energy.)
  • A commuter travelling from Skipton to Bradford would burn 1.4 kilograms of coal to go by car – but only 0.4 kilograms by taking the train. (It means 1,000 single car commutes along this route burn almost 1.5 tons of extra carbon energy compared to travelling by train.)
  • Two holidaymakers going from Leeds to Manchester International Airport would use 1.7 kilograms of coal going by road – but only 1.1 kilograms if they used the train.
  • A pair of daycationers heading up to the Lakes (Wigan to Oxenholme) would use 1.7 kilograms in a car and only 1.1 kilograms on the train.

But a family of four opting to travel either by road or rail on a seaside trip to Blackpool from Manchester Piccadilly would use exactly the same 1 kilogram of coal whichever choice they made.

Martin Tugwell, Chief Executive of Transport for the North said:

“These new figures show that we all perhaps need to be better informed about how we choose to travel, and sometimes, making a choice is not quite as straightforward as it looks. Transport related social exclusion, for example, may sometimes mean limited or no choice in the way people travel. But it’s clear from the data, that, where it is possible, stepping out of the car and onto a train could make a significant impact on the North’s carbon footprint.

“To be a viable alternative to diesel or petrol car travel, though, the train and other travel options need to be accessible, affordable and reliable and we need to make the right investments to ensure this can be the case. Exploring and developing how best we can do this has to be a priority for both the North and the wider UK.”


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