Public see rail as green but many still use cars - Network Rail survey finds: Avanti West Coast train passing over M6 - Credit Network Rail Air Operations-2

Thursday 4 Nov 2021

Public see rail as green but many still use cars - Network Rail survey finds

Region & Route:
North West & Central

Two-thirds of the British public recognise the railway as a greener mode of transport - and yet 73% of this group still primarily use cars to get around.

That was the key finding of a national survey carried out by Network Rail as part of the industry-wide ‘We Mean Green’ campaign to encourage travellers to make greener travel choices.

Two thousand people across the country were surveyed ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (CoP26) in Glasgow asking them a range of questions about their travel habits.

It found that despite volatile fuel prices and rail’s significantly lower carbon emissions, people need further convincing to travel on trains rather than cars.

Using the train for leisure travel is on the rise, the study found.

Of the 2,000 people surveyed, 67% said they would consider using the train instead of a car for a day out with friends or family, and 55% would also consider using the train for travel to a big music or sports event.

The rise in leisure travel re-affirms the major impact Covid-19 has had on shifting passenger travel patterns with many still working from home.  

Tim Shoveller, managing director for Network Rail’s North West & Central region, said: “Rail is the greenest form of public transport there is. We want to encourage as many people as possible to make the shift from car to train more regularly, particularly for long-distance travel - not just for the planet, but for reliability, comfort and safety.”

Incentives such as the introduction of flexible season tickets are helping to attract more people back to rail, with passenger numbers increasing by 19% in just the last two months.

Total passenger numbers are now at around 65% of pre-Covid-19 levels, with commuters steadily returning.

Currently 42% of the UK rail network is electrified, although 70% of trains run on these electrified routes*.

Network Rail has committed to reduce its own operational carbon emissions by 25% by 2024 as part of its pledge to become Net Zero by 2050 in line with government policy.

It is also the first railway firm in the world to set the most ambitious level of science-based targets for reducing carbon emissions to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

Another commitment is to do more to protect and conserve wildlife habitats on its land.

To read more about the rail industry’s We Mean Green campaign visit:

For further information about Network Rail’s sustainability commitments visit:

Notes to Editors

The survey was carried out by Yonder from 15-17 October 2021 with a total sample size of 2,000 adults. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

Regional breakdowns:

Do you see the railway as an environmentally friendly way to travel?            
Region Scotland North East North West Yorks & Humber West Midlands East Midlands Wales Eastern London South East South West
Yes 60% 77% 69% 66% 60% 61% 58% 61% 80% 65% 63%
No 15% 9% 14% 13% 15% 16% 20% 23% 9% 16% 13%
Don't know 25% 15% 16% 21% 25% 23% 22% 16% 11% 19% 24%
Do you use your car as your primary mode of transport?              
Region Scotland North East North West Yorks & Humber West Midlands East Midlands Wales Eastern London South East South West
Yes 72% 83% 72% 71% 83% 73% 84% 80% 49% 79% 82%
No 28% 17% 28% 29% 17% 27% 16% 20% 51% 21% 18%

All respondents: Would you consider using a train instead of a car in the following scenarios?

All Travel to work Go on Staycation Visit family Sport/music event Day trip
Yes 21% 46% 44% 55% 67%
No 79% 53% 56% 45% 32%


*Benefits of electrification

  • It’s significantly better for the environment – electric trains emit 60% less carbon than diesel trains, potentially rising to 80% by 2040
  • Electric routes produce less air pollution than diesel alternatives
  • Electric trains are quieter, reducing noise and vibration for passengers and those living and working near the tracks
  • In the long term, electric trains cost less when compared to the whole-life costs of diesel engines
  • Electrification can reduce journey times due to better acceleration which contributes towards a railway that is not only greener, but faster too
  • Electric trains are simpler, more reliable and easier to maintain than diesel trains, meaning fewer delays

Contact information

Passengers / community members
Network Rail national helpline
03457 11 41 41

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Network Rail press office - North West & Central Region
07740 782954

About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

Follow us on Twitter: @networkrail
Visit our online newsroom: