Government ignoring rail in favour of domestic flights

| 10th June 2010
A plane ready for boarding

The UK Government is urging the public to fly less while its officials are still choosing to fly more

Majority of UK Government departments are choosing to fly staff to destinations easily accessible by train, such as London to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Manchester

Whitehall is failing to set a positive example for sustainable transport, with 90 per cent of Government flights taken on domestic routes to destinations easily accessible by train,

According to an analysis commissioned by WWF, only two departments have reduced domestic flights - the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) by 66 per cent and the Department for Education by 32 per cent.

But others continue to favour flights, plying popular domestic routes with rail alternatives, such as London to Edinburgh or Glasgow. The Home Office flew more than 1,000 times between London and Manchester in 2008/9.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) spent £715,115 on 1,378 flights last year, 676 of which were domestic.


WWF says it wants to see Government departments sign up to cutting one in five flights within five years, replacing these flights with lower carbon alternatives such as rail or videoconferencing.

At a recent conference, a speaker from Defra said that since promoting videoconferencing to their staff they had seen uptake increase by 500 per cent in the past year.

Departments reported that ministers and officials booked a total of 452,562 flights in the year 2008-9. The Ministry of Defence (321,394 flights), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) (71,566 flights) and Department for Work and Pensions (27,325 flights) accounted for 93 per cent of all these flights taken.

However,  only 11 departments were able to give a breakdown of their flights to WWF, which said departments needed to improve their flight data as well as introducing clear travel policy standards to reduce unnecessary flying.

Useful links

Full report: Excess baggage? Time to reduce Government flying

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Heathrow aiport expansion will result in £5 billion loss
Calculations on the cost of building a third runway at Heathrow are outdated and do not make economic sense says a new report
Dilemma: How do you define unneccesary travel?
With plane, train and automobile emissions still increasing,
are we being honest with ourselves about how and how often we travel? Matilda Lee looks at the bare necessities of transport
Short haul flights not the problem says climate watchdog
Long haul leisure flights the main driver of aviation emissions, says report that believes Heathrow airport can be expanded without breaking the UK's carbon emissions targets

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