Eco campaigners and climate charities have clubbed together to write to Network Rail bosses calling for a total ban on advertising for new cars and vehicle ownership on trains and around stations, it has emerged.
Green groups contacted the railways operator demanding that it scraps motor-related ads, dubbing them ‘an extraordinary act of self sabotage’ against public transport.
Yet the timing of the letter couldn’t be much worse with commuters set to face travel chaos on the train network next week and ultimately be forced to drive to work.
Four days of strike action begins on Tuesday, and millions will also have to turn to their cars over the festive period with another staff walk-out from Christmas Eve.
Ban car ads on public transport: Climate campaign groups have written to Network Rail executives calling for a total ban on new vehicle advertisement on trains and at stations
Climate charity Possible, thinktank New Weather Institute, and activist network Adfree Cities were among those to write a joint letter to executives at Network Rail this week.
It said examples of ‘badvertising’ of high-carbon cars in public transport spaces is contributing towards a wider failure to deliver crucial climate change targets.
The coalition of green groups referenced new analysis of official national-level travel data that ‘explicitly links’ increased levels of household car ownership to decreased levels of public transport use, which has yet to recover to the average levels seen pre-pandemic levels.
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It cuts come just days after the RAC accused the ‘big four’ supermarkets of not passing on cheaper wholesale fuel prices to drivers and ‘clinging on to margins for dear life’.
Typically, the major supermarkets go to battle in December to offer the cheapest fuel to entice customers to their stores for the Christmas period.
However, it fails to acknowledge that public transport has also been hit by a rise in working from home since Covid-19 first forced millions of workers into doing business from their living rooms and kitchens.
‘Network Rail’s financial interests rely on revenue which is predominantly derived from passenger travel on their networks,’ the groups said in a joint statement.
‘Advertising cars to public transport passengers demonstrably undermines these revenue streams, since both National Travel Survey and London Travel Demand Survey data show that higher household car ownership levels are associated with correspondingly lower levels of rail travel and overall public transport use.’
The campaigners also claim that Network Rail is already breaching a clause in its code of acceptance for advertising, which is ‘supposed to prohibit ads which may harm their interests in any way’.
The eco groups said culling advertising of new motors could be a ‘key step in de-normalising car and high-carbon culture’.
Campaigners said allowing car makers to try to sell directly to public transport passengers is ‘an extraordinary act of self sabotage’
Emilie Tricarico, a ‘badvertising campaigner’, said: ‘Car advertising on public transport makes no sense.
‘Network Rail relies on people making sustainable travel choices for their income, so allowing car makers to try to sell directly to their passengers is an extraordinary act of self sabotage.
‘What’s more, National Rail has made policy commitments to support a shift from road to rail, but hosting car ads on trains and buses does the exact opposite.
‘Public transport bodies need to implement policies to clean up their ad space and stop pervasive private car advertising pushing people toward polluting the planet.’
Letter sent just days before rail strike action will force people to drive to work next week
The letter sent will have landed on the desks of National Rail big wigs just days ahead of planned disruption across the rail network next week.
Unions will strike over the ongoing pay dispute on December 13, 14, 16 and 17.
This will ultimately force commuters into their cars – or to work from home – on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday next week due to a lack of available trains in service.
And more than 40,000 rail workers will join the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union walkout due to be held from 6pm on Christmas Eve until 6am December 27, which will cause further travel chaos for many with plans to spend Christmas with their families.
RMT supporters protest outside offices of Network Rail in the summer. Strike action will take place next week and between Christmas Eve an 27 December
Rail strike action in December will ultimately force people to use their cars more than they normally would to get to work or to see family and friends over Christmas
Despite knowing there will be fewer trains in service over the coming weeks, Leo Murray, co-director of climate charity Possible, said National Rail’s willingness to continue advertising cars was partly to blame for ‘draining public transport networks of valuable revenue by pushing people to take up driving instead’.
He added: ‘Ultimately, adverts for fossil fuels and fossil fuel hungry products and activities are one of the key ways in which our society perpetuates a doomed culture that sees climate damaging behaviours impact human health all across the globe.
‘For people’s health, for the climate and for sustainable transport in the UK, we need all public authorities to adopt more responsible advertising policies that reflect the damage that high-carbon advertising causes.’
Commenting on the letter, Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, told This is Money: ‘Private cars provide essential mobility for millions for whom public transport simply isn’t viable due to coverage, availability or accessibility.
‘Delivering Net Zero depends on decarbonising all forms of transport – both public and private – as well as other sectors, most notably the energy sector.
‘This requires effective, low emission and affordable public transport as well as the replacement of older private cars with the latest, lower emission models – of which two in five available are already zero emission, with more to come.
‘Advertising these technologies helps increase awareness and encourages that transition whilst helping fund public transport – both of which are vital for securing a net zero future.’