Five transport and climate action NGOs – Opportunity Green, Transport & Environment (T&E) UK, Campaign for Better Transport, Aviation Environment Federation and Transport Action Network – are calling on the train and ferry companies to restore the Sail & Rail service from London to Dublin to its ‘former glory’.

The NGOs have this week written an open letter calling on Transport for Wales, Avanti West Coast, Irish Ferries and Stena Line to ‘work together to resolve this urgent issue’.

They have also sent the letter to the Irish and UK governments, urging them to see this as an ‘opportunity’ for taking ‘effective climate action in cross-border transport’.

In a blog post published today (5 June), Opportunity Green’s Founder Aoife O’Leary said she has been travelling regularly between Ireland and in the UK over the past decade. However, she added: ‘Sadly, over the past four years the sale of these [combined Sail & Rail] tickets has become increasingly restricted, making it harder and harder for people to take this easy journey that would reduce their emissions.’

O’Leary said that, as things stand, it is not easy to buy combined Sail & Rail tickets in advance: ‘Ferry tickets are released more than six months in advance and the train at least three months in advance.’ However, she added: ‘For the Sail & Rail tickets, any dates more than a month away display “no fares available” with no indication that those fares will be released at a later date.’

Furthermore, O’Leary said that she has ‘often contacted the train companies and been told that the Sail & Rail tickets literally don’t exist or that they will only be released two weeks before the travel date’.

‘This matters,’ she maintained, ‘because booking the two tickets separately makes it significantly more expensive, and more likely that people will choose to fly over taking the train/ferry. In addition, it is international travel – many people will want to book significantly in advance.’

Steering people towards flying rather than using Sail & Rail, said O’Leary, is creating an environmental problem as ‘aviation has very few truly sustainable potential fuels that it can use, other than green hydrogen and fuels derived from green hydrogen’ – and those fuels are ‘not available to date and neither the polices of the UK nor the EU are driving investment into those fuels’.

‘We need to ensure that people are enabled to make easy decisions not to fly,’ urged O’Leary. ‘There is simply no need to fly between Dublin and London but sadly the policies of the train and ferry companies are starting to provide one. At Opportunity Green we call on them to figure out how to release tickets for the Sail & Rail when the train tickets are released – just like they used to be before the pandemic. Surely it can’t be that hard?’


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