Back in the 80’s, when Chris Rea crooned about driving home for Christmas, he probably wasn’t aware of the environmental impact of his travel advice.


Source IEA 2019

Energy intensity of different transport modes in 2017. The left-hand chart shows energy intensity of passenger transport, in tonnes of oil equivalent (toe) per million passenger km travelled. The right-hand chart shows energy intensity of freight transport, in toe per million tonne km transported.

Transport accounts for one quarter of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions of which road transport is 82%. Seamless connectivity between different modes of transport is key to enabling travellers to make more sustainable transport choices.

And connectivity between different modes of transport is what Trainline (held across Kames ethical, sustainable and UK equity portfolios) does. In fact the company explicitly states that, ‘Trainline’s ambition is to bring together rail, coach and other travel services into one simple mobile experience so that travellers can easily find the best prices for their journey and access smart, real-time information on the go. By making rail and coach travel easier, our aim is to encourage people all over the world to make more environmentally sustainable travel choices.’ Trainline covers approximately 80% of the supply of rail in the European Union and 60% of coach services. And people love their app (e.g. 4.9 out of 5 stars iOS rating) which Trainline invests significantly in.

In London, transport connectivity is critical for economic success. Readers will perhaps be unsurprised to know that more than 1 million people travel into central London by rail or Tube every morning. Insufficient rail and tube services for central London will constrain future economic growth, but also compromise economic fairness by limiting access to jobs, education and training leading to less social integration.

Transport for London, TfL (held in the Kames Ethical Corporate Bond Fund) is the enabler of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, a vision of high quality public transport services that connect seamlessly to other forms of active, efficient and sustainable travel across the city. Whilst also making London’s transport network net zero emission by 2050.

Source – London Mayor’s Transport Strategy, 2018

We have previously written about the #Flightshame phenomenon. High-speed rail offers one solution and the IEA suggest that high-speed rail lines can reduce aviation transport on the same routes by as much as 80%. As the chart below shows, the opening of the Brussels-London Eurostar reduced the number of km travelled by plan on that route by 55%. Getlink (held in the Kames Ethical Corporate Bond Fund) is the operator of the Channel Tunnel and estimates that journeys that are shorter than four hours tend to be dominated by rail… assuming connections between the cities exist.  Market share drops significantly with additional journey time.

Average change in passenger activity on selected air routes after high-speed rail implementation. Source – IEA, 2019

Unlike Chris, many people are beginning to reconsider their short-haul travel choices. But more sustainable alternatives also have to be convenient and cost-effective. Transport connectivity is critical to enable travellers to make more sustainable choices.

About the author

Ryan Smith is Head of ESG Research at Kames Capital. He joined Kames Capital in October 2000 as an SRI analyst and was appointed to his current position in September 2002. He has 19 years’ industry experience*. His role involves managing the team that conducts the ESG screening process for our Responsible Investing funds. Ryan’s team also provides corporate governance screening and research for all equity investments, and conducts research into environmental and social issues. Before joining us, he worked as an environmental chemist for Severn Trent Water. Ryan has an MSc in Environmental Chemistry from Nottingham Trent University.  *As at 30 November 2019.

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