The rail rivals to Britain's two biggest domestic air routes are now carrying 35 percent of passengers, and the number is growing. The routes, connecting London to Glasgow and Edinburgh, have shown continual growth over the past decade.
Virgin Trains, which operates the West Coast mainline to Glasgow says that it carried 717,000 passengers last year, compared to 244,000 ten years ago. And the growth is coming at the expense of flying; in the twelve months ending July 2019, rail passengers on the Glasgow route rose by 57,000 while air travelers dropped by 81,000.
Environmentalists say that the change brought a 1/6 drop in carbon emissions for overall travel between the two cities in the 2018-2019 year. Mark Smith, of the rail website Seat61.com, attributes much of the growth to improved trains and service, pointing out that “Virgin has transformed Britain’s West Coast main line. They’ve doubled London-Glasgow train service so it’s now every hour, raised line speed to 125mph and cut journey time to 4h 29m."
However, Virgin trains will lose that route next month; it was disqualified from bidding for it again because it did not meet pension requirements. The new operator is First Trenitalia, an alliance between a Scottish company, First Group, and the Italian state railway system.