Train operators call for ‘level playing field’ over tax

THE interim findings of the Union Connectivity Review by Sir Peter Hendy have been published today and the rail industry is critical of proposals to reform Air Passenger Duty on domestic flights, although the report does make it clear that it will concentrate on journeys which are ‘not realistic by rail’.

Rail Delivery Group director general Andy Bagnall said: ‘Funding to look at developing better rail links between England, Scotland and Wales rightly recognises the key role trains will play in a future decarbonised transport network. Rather than considering a cut to air passenger duty in isolation, government should ensure there is a level tax playing field across cars, planes and trains with each paying according to the environmental impact they have. This would encourage people to make greener choices to get from A to B such as taking the train.’

Rail travel in Britain has not been taxed since the 1920s and there is no VAT on rail fares, unlike in some EU countries.

The industry also called for ‘clearer and simpler’ tickets for passengers in its submission to Sir Peter’s Review, which the RDG says would make up to 80 per cent of ‘walk up’ off peak long distance tickets cheaper.

One key recommendation in the Review is the possible development of a new UK Strategic Transport Network. This could echo the way that the Trans-European Transport Network was designed to support the European Single Market through improved connectivity and the closure of gaps in existing cross-border transport networks.

The interim Review explains that ‘the development of a UK equivalent could support better assessment of transport routes and investment decisions, better management of the flow of people and goods between nations and improved partnership working between the UK government and devolved administrations’.

Other proposals include an upgrade of rail connections between North Wales and Merseyside, upgrades of the West Coast and East Coast Main Lines, faster and higher capacity passenger and freight services from HS2 and other railways to Scotland and North Wales and also greater capacity and faster journeys between Scotland and England, Wales and Newcastle by rail. A fixed link between Scotland and Northern Ireland is also being considered.