COP26: Train fares 3 times higher than the plane for Birmingham delegates

Birmingham City Council boss hits out at ridiculous situation of lack of green travel options to COP26 talks in Glasgow

Birmingham politicians are facing a climate change catastrophe before they even reach Glasgow to join the international talks to address global warming.

Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Combined Authority representatives are due at the talks on Wednesday and Thursday.

They will be showcasing the latest innovations in eco-friendly transport being championed in the region which wants to lead the Green Industrial Revolution - just as it did the Industrial Revolution over a century ago.

This includes showcasing the Hydroflex - a hydrogen train developed by the University of Birmingham - and Vivarail, a battery powered train developed in Southam, near Stratford.

But before they even set out for the COP26 summit the issues around the world’s over-reliance on polluting transport options was laid bare as plane tickets are three times cheaper than the more green-friendly train tickets.

Birmingham City Council transport boss Cllr Waseem Zaffar was alarmed when he discovered that a one way train ticket from Birmingham to New Street would cost him £101.90 on Avanti West Coast (the most direct service).

Whereas he could get a one way flight on easyjet for just £29.99.

Cllr Waseem Zaffar

Cllr Zaffar said he was sticking to his principles and paying the higher price to travel on the more eco-friendly train option.

He told BirminghamWorld: “Just how important it is for us all to make change in our lives was laid bare to me before I’ve even set out the door to go to COP26.

“I went to book my tickets to go and was shocked to find the plane is more than three times cheaper than the train.

“I didn’t book the plane though. We need to stick to our principles, so I’m going up on the more expensive train option - even though it’s much more expensive.”

Birmingham City Council is aiming for the city to be Net Zero by 2030, which is 20 years ahead of the government’s 2050 target and 11 years ahead of West Midlands Combined Authorities 2041 target.

Cllr Zaffar believes the government should bring its Net zero date forward and says some of the policies being actioned in Birmingham could help to inspire this.

The University of Birmingham and Porterbrook are carrying trials for Hydroflex - the UK’s first hydrogen powered train

What events is Cllr Zaffer attending at COP26?

Cllr Zaffar, cabinet member for Transport and Environment, is travelling to COP26 to attend the Asthma UK Lung fringe event where air quality health will be discussed.

Cllr Zaffar oversaw the introduction of the Clean Air Zone in Birmingham, which, he said, has seen a 20% reduction in pollution in one part of Birmingham city centre.

He will join the West Midlands Combined Authority’s HydroFlex event - the Uk’s first hydrogen train, which is being developed by the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) in collaboration with rolling stock solutions provider Porterbrook.

The project is expected to decarbonise the British railway network, which currently accommodates diesel and electric trains, by replacing diesel-only trains with HydroFLEX until 2040.

EasyJet flies a number of Scottish routes including services from Edinburgh Airport, above. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Why the interest in Hydrogen transport?

While hydrogen trains may not be fully up and running yet, Birmingham City Council is championing the use of hydrogen buses in Birmingham to help further tackle air pollution in the city, which is said to claim over 1,000 lives in the city each year.

The city has already bought 20 of the buses which will run cross city along the Sprint route from Walsall through Birmingham city centre and out to Birmingham Airport.

Cllr Zaffar is hoping the government will give the city council to buy 200 more which could run along established routes and replace the petrol buses.

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