Select Committee on Environmental Audit Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT)

  The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) welcomes the opportunity to provide written evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee inquiry: Reducing Carbon Emissions from Transport.

  The RMT organises over 72,000 members and negotiates on their behalf with over 150 employers across all sectors of the transport industry. With over 45,000 members employed on the national rail network, the RMT is the largest of the rail unions. Our long standing commitment to an environmentally sustainable and fully integrated transport system is well documented.


  Transport Statistics 2005 indicates that in 2003 carbon emissions, measured by source category, from domestic transport represented 23% of all UK carbon emissions. In the same year domestic transport was responsible for 27% of all UK carbon emissions when measured by end user category (See tables).

Carbon dioxide emissions measured by source category 2003

Mode of Transport
Million tonnes of carbon
  % of all UK carbon emissions

<lh0,27p0> Passenger cars
Light duty vehicles
Mopeds and Motorcycles
Civil aircraft
All domestic transport

Carbon dioxide emissions measured by end user category 2003

Mode of Transport
Million tonnes of carbon
  % of all UK carbon emissions

Road Transport
Civil aircraft
All domestic transport

  Self-evidently rail remains a less polluting form of transport than cars, lorries and aircraft. Indeed, the 2004 Department for Transport's National Atmospheric Inventory found that on a journey between Edinburgh and London, car and air produced six and eight times respectively the level of CO2 emissions than that produced by rail.


  In 2004 the Government set itself the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5% below 1990 levels by 2010. On carbon emissions, the targets are even more challenging—20% and 60% reductions below the 1990 level by 2010 and 2050 respectively. Whilst the 12.5% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is set to be met, the Government is now less confident that the carbon emissions targets set out in the 2004 PSA will now be delivered.

  However, RMT remains unclear as to how PSA targets to reduce carbon emissions are fully integrated into transport infrastructure projects and plans. Such projects and plans would include;

    —    The Government's high level output specification for rail due for publication in 2007.

    —    New road building plans.

    —    The Eddington review into the UK's future transport needs.

    —    The ODPM's sustainable communities plan.

    —    Airport runway expansion schemes.

  We would trust that the current inquiry will go some way in clarifying the issue.

  In addition RMT's parliamentary group of MPs has secured agreement from the DfT and DEFRA to participate, alongside the TUC, in a seminar later this year on the "sustainable case for rail". We believe that this will prove to be a forum in which transport priorities can be identified, discussed and integrated in the context of securing the PSA targets.

  RMT remains unconvinced that Government is coherently co-ordinating the necessary steps to reduce carbon emissions from transport and would endorse the comments made by the Commission for Integrated Transport in its submission to the February 2005 Transport and Climate Change consultation;

    "Overall there is a lack of understanding of how GHG (Green House Gas) reduction has influenced the policy decision on transport; the Government has set a range of commendable targets to reduce green house gas emissions. However it has failed to match its commitments with tough policies to achieve these goals from the transport sector. Transport policy initiatives need to be supported by clear targets and justification for these. The Department for Transport must set out exactly what action it will take to put the transport sector back on track. If the target to reduce emissions by 60% by 2050 is in sight, then severe cuts in emissions from transport will be required. This in turn will require more than short term thinking and focus on technological change".

  RMT is firmly of the view that in order to meet the aspirations set out in the PSA to substantially reduce carbon emissions by 2010 and 2050, Government has to bring forward a robust and integrated package of policies which seeks to encourage modal shift from the private car to other more environmentally friendly forms of public transport.

  We would highlight the conclusions reached of the recent University College London Bartlett School of Planning and Halcrow Group report Looking over the Horizon: Visioning and Backcasting for UK Transport Policy indicates that transport carbon emissions are set to be 53MtC in 2030, with road transport being responsible for 49MtC of the overall emissions.

  The report explains that the way in which people travel needs radical change and that technological advances including hybrid cars and green fuels are far less effective in reaching Government carbon emission targets than lifestyle changes including modal shift from private to public forms of transport.


  Government is taking some positive steps to reduce carbon emissions from transport. RMT welcomes including the introduction of the Renewable Fuel Transport Obligation (RFTO) which requires 5% of all UK solid fuels to come from a renewable source by 2010. Nevertheless even when this target is delivered the UK will still lag far behind countries such as Brazil where biofuel use is extensive. However, RMT would re-iterate that the RTFO and the increased fuel efficiency of private cars will prove to be insufficient in encouraging the scale of modal shift required to deliver sustained reductions in carbon emissions from transport.

Demand management

  RMT further welcomes the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) which by 2014-15 will have an annual budget of £2.5 billion, providing funds for local and regional authorities to introduce congestion charging schemes. In the recently produced TIF guidance the Department for Transport acknowledges that a number of demand management schemes exist including parking measures. They conclude that "we are therefore most likely to fund packages involving road pricing, although we may, by exception, consider bids involving a Workplace Parking Levy".

  The Government also appears committed to introducing national road-user charging as a means to reduce congestion and tackle greenhouse gas emissions. A written parliamentary answer of 7 February 2006 indicates that the scale of the reduction in congestion that the Government believes will result from both national and local road pricing schemes.

  Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what assessment his Department has made of the effect on congestion of (a) a national road pricing scheme and (b) road pricing schemes in local authority areas; [48251]

  (2)  what assessment his Department has made of the likely effect of (a) a national road pricing scheme and (b) road pricing schemes in local authority areas on car use; [48252]

  (3)  whether his Department has made an estimate of how much travel on (a) rural roads, (b) urban roads and (c) motorways would cost per mile under a national road pricing scheme. [48254]

  Dr. Ladyman: "The Feasibility Study of Road Pricing in the UK", published by the Department for Transport in July 2004, showed that road pricing could potentially reduce congestion by some 40 per cent. with benefits of up to £12 billion a year in time savings and increased reliability. The study modelled a wide range of theoretical schemes and charges including variants of national road pricing and of charging in local authority areas. A copy of the study report was placed in the Library, and is also available on the Department's website.

  If Government projections are borne out then the implications for the rail industry will be extremely profound. In 2004, cars, vans and taxis accounted for 85% of passenger transport journeys, with rail (including the London Underground and light rail systems) accounting for 6% of all journeys. The national rail network currently carries over one billion passengers a year—more than at any time since the 1950s. Overcrowding is already a feature of many parts of the network and there are a number of engineering pinch-points which act as a barrier to increasing capacity.

  If the demand management schemes are successful and result in a modal shift of as little as 6% then rail's modal share would increase by 100%. This would leave the existing network unable to cope. It would be wholly inadequate for Government to wait until revenue raised by local, regional or national demand management schemes became available to fund capacity enhancements on the rail network. RMT is of the view that the Department for Transport should bring forward, as soon as is practicable, robust, well-financed plans to increase capacity in order that the extra demand which will result from the introduction of road user charging schemes can be successfully met. A failure to do so will simply result in road users paying the congestion charge and remaining in their cars, because the rail network had been insufficiently enhanced to provide an attractive alternative. Such a development would contribute very little to Government aspirations to reduce carbon emissions.

High Speed Rail link

  It is a matter of serious concern to the RMT that Britain remains one of the last Western European countries to develop high speed rail routes. Rather than develop high-speed routes as has become the norm in mainland Europe, successive Government's have overseen an explosion in cheap domestic flights.

  In December 2005, the Institute of Civil Engineers published The Missing Link—A report on high speed rail links in the UK that outlines the case for a new high speed rail link between London and Scotland. The Institute argues that journey times to Manchester could be cut to 90 minutes, with even greater benefits on longer distances to Newcastle and Glasgow. The new trains would have a speed of just over 155 mph (250kh) if they run on new tracks. Capacity could be greatly enhanced by the provision of a high speed line. 220 new trains per day could be provided, compared to a potential 98 additional trains per day following the West Coast Main Line modernisation project. The new line would attract new users onto rail, ease congestion, free up space for rail freight and most importantly in terms of reducing carbon emissions, provide an attractive alternative to short-haul domestic air travel.

  Where a dedicated high speed link, namely Eurostar, has been brought forward, rail now accounts for 71% of the market share between London and Paris. The advantages of rail over air are self-evident: faster check in times and city-centre to city-centre journeys provided by an environmentally sustainable service. Notwithstanding the cost explosion on the West Coast Mainline upgrade programme, the introduction of the Pendolino fleet, on the WCML and the reduction of the journey time between London and Manchester to two hours has strengthened rail's market share between the two cities bringing with it obvious environmental benefits.

Rail Freight

  As part of our commitment to environmentally sustainable forms of transport RMT is, together with our sister rail unions, Network Rail, the freight operating companies and Transport 2000, a member of the Freight on Rail (FoR) partnership. Material produced by Freight on Rail indicates that tonne per tonne carried rail freight produces 90% less carbon dioxide than road transport. An average freight train can remove 50 HGVs and an average aggregates freight train up to 120 HGVS from our roads.

  In terms of the package of greenhouse gas emissions rail freight compares extremely favourably with Heavy Goods Vehicles (see table).

Carbon monoxide
Nitrogen oxides
Carbon dioxide
Volatile organic compounds


  Self-evidently then rail freight represents an environmentally cleaner form of transport than HGVs. RMT is therefore disappointed that the Westminster Government decided in 2003 not to award any future Freight Facilities Grants (FFGs) in England. The Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly have not followed suit. Indeed, in January 2006 the Scottish Executive awarded £5.2 million to JST Services (Rail) in order that the company could construct a new rail head in Ayrshire thus enabling them to transport timber by rail rather than by road. Also in January the Executive awarded WH Malcolm £600,000 to transport plasterboard by rail from Cumbria to a new FFG facility in Paisley. Both grants should see 1.5 million lorry miles taken off the roads. RMT would urge that the DfT re-visits its decision to freeze FFGs in England.

Fares policy

  Steps to encourage the reduction of carbon emissions from transport should include making public transport an accessible and affordable alternative to the private car. However, it is widely accepted that the public is faced with rail fares that are too high and an overly complex ticketing structure. Independent research commissioned by the RMT in spring 2005 found that single standard tickets are up to three times more expensive in the UK than those in mainland Europe.

  Regrettably January 2006 saw above inflation increases in regulated and unregulated fares with unregulated fares increasing by an average of 8.8% on GNER and WAGN services. The future of saver tickets now also appears to be in some doubt. RMT is concerned that the train operators are seeking to price passengers off the rail network by increasing fares in a similar fashion to that employed all to often by the British Railways Board in the 1970s. Such a course is seriously mistaken. Fares policy and ticketing structures should be developed in order to encourage modal shift, thereby reducing carbon emissions. We are firmly of the view that Government should conduct a review of fares policy with the overarching aim of bringing forward proposals to encourage modal shift from road to rail.

Safer stations

  In addition to reasonable priced and readily understood fare and ticketing structures the public should be assured that their journey by rail, and other forms of public transport, will be safe and secure. Unfortunately many of our rail stations are not at all welcoming environments, particularly outside of the peak period. Around 47% of Britain's stations are currently unstaffed, many others are not staffed from the beginning to the end of traffic. The Department for Transport produced research in 2002 which found that safer stations could increase rail use by 11%. In addition a recent study produced by the RMT demonstrated that the £200 million a year saved by bringing passenger services into public ownership would provide enough money to fund 1,600 extra staff and double the stations improvements budget from £150 million per annum to £300 million. Increased patronage of the rail network facilitated by improvements to station infrastructure and environment would make a useful contribution in reducing carbon emissions from transport.


  RMT welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Environmental Audit Committee's investigation into reducing carbon emissions from transport. Effective co-ordinated action is required if Government is to meet targets to reduce carbon emissions in line with the 2004 Public Service Agreement. RMT believes that plans should be brought forward which would seek to:

    —    Cope with the extra demand on the rail network which will result from the introduction of road user charging schemes.

    —    Develop a dedicated high-speed, north-south rail link.

    —    Ensure that accessible rail links are fully integrated into the ODPM's sustainable communities plans.

    —    Re-instate Freight Facilities Grants and encourage the movement of freight by rail.

    —    Make station environments safer and more accessible.

    —    Review rail fares and ticketing structures with a view to encouraging modal shift from road to rail.

  RMT would welcome the opportunity to provide oral evidence in support of our submission.

February 2006

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