A recent government announcement shared plans to reunify the national rail under one governing body, which is slated to make travel easier and (hopefully) cheaper for a lot of people. As the country opens up following over a year of lockdown, this could be the push people need to travel and explore their surrounding areas. But what could a reunified rail service mean for sustainability?
Cheaper, more accessible travel is essential if we are to encourage people to use rail services over their own cars, or even bus services. Since trains are the most environmentally friendly means of transport (often 80% less CO2 emissions per km than cars), making trains a more usable form of transport, through easier train routes and increased services, will certainly result in less carbon emissions. More passengers on trains mean less cars on the road.
More accessible travel also means people are likely to spend money in neighbouring cities, with nights out and local holidays being much more affordable and less complicated. Affordable travel is also an incredible benefit for people who commute to work using public transport, either because they can’t drive, or driving is impractical.
So, is the government’s plan enough?
Train usage during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was, in some places, at its lowest since the 19th century. It’s possible this is the move that will ensure its future, and allow for the continued expansion of the rail service to as many people as possible. But travel, especially to remote areas, will likely remain too expensive for travelling for leisure, surely impacting the leisure income that this change could have otherwise improved.
Time will tell how this change will effect the railway service, but it’s likely that the new system will be an improvement but will remain far from perfect. Travel is an essential part of life, especially for those living or working in rural or remote areas, and until it is consistently accessible and affordable the benefits any system offers will be limited.
by Dan Johnson, SGO Projects Officer #actingtogether