The number of people opting to travel between London and Glasgow by train instead of flying has reached ‘record levels’, according to rail operator Virgin trains.

In the 12 months to July 2019, 29 per cent of passengers travelled with the company on its services between London and Glasgow – two percentage points higher than the previous record set in 2014 during the Commonwealth Games.

Virgin Trains says the increase comes as the number of passengers travelling between England and Scotland’s major cities grew by 6 per cent in the same period to a record of 717,592.

The company also says its campaign to encourage travellers to choose trains over planes has pushed up rail’s overall market share relative to airlines on total journeys between Glasgow/Edinburgh and London, which grew from 34 per cent to 35 per cent in the year to July 2019.

Analysis by sustainable transport charity Transform Scotland shows that rail’s increased market share and the reduction in flights has helped drive down carbon emissions on the route by 17 per cent over the year.

Virgin Trains has released the figures as it prepares to hand over operations of the West Coast franchise to First Trenitalia on 8 December.

MD Phil Whittingham commented: “The number of people choosing train over plane is testament to the investment and improvement Virgin Trains has made in Anglo-Scottish services over the last two decades. This growth is critical in supporting Scotland’s economy and helping achieve government targets to decarbonise transport and achieve net zero emissions.”

Colin Howden, director of Transform Scotland, claimed current levels of air travel are “incompatible” with the climate emergency, adding: “Comparable distances across Europe use rail rather than air as the dominant mode of transport, so it is overdue for Scotland to take action to cut the excessive volume of flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow to London. Rail produces a fifth of the climate emissions that comes from air travel. It’s definitely the greenest option for Anglo-Scottish services.”

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