Over 80 per cent of UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) intend to increase their support for lower carbon business travel through corporate travel policies and budgets for 2024.
That is the headline finding from a new survey of over 500 decision makers at businesses with fewer than 250 employees commissioned by Trainline Partner Solutions, the B2B arm of Trainline.
The survey found nine in 10 UK SMEs expect to boost travel expenditure this year, while 92 per cent expect to see levels of business travel increase.
However, at the same time 83 per cent intend to strengthen their travel policy and/or financial support to make it easier for employees to opt for lower carbon travel modes in 2024. Specifically, 48 per cent are planning to use rail more to help reduce their emissions from business travel.
The survey also found 52 per cent of respondents have already set targets for reducing their emissions from business travel – and of those SMEs that have no such goals, two-thirds think it is likely their company will set a target this year.
“Businesses are telling us they expect to both travel and spend more this year as business travel continues to rebound post-Covid,” said Andrew Cruttenden, general manager at Trainline Partner Solutions. “We’re seeing a clear signal that sustainability considerations are a growing factor in setting travel policies and budgets, and rail is a great way to reduce the carbon emissions for travel versus flying and driving. Carriers and travel partners must ensure they can meet this growing demand by innovating and investing in the right tech that helps make rail a simple and seamless option for business travellers.”
Most businesses have slashed travel-related emissions in recent years, after the covid pandemic triggered widespread use of video conferencing platforms. However, business travels are expected to continue to recover this year, prompting calls for businesses and policymakers to incentivise wider use of lower emission forms of travel.
For example, the Climate Perks campaign has called on companies to offer employees extra days off if they use rail for their holidays, while green groups have repeatedly called for businesses to eschew the use of short haul flights wherever rail offers a viable alternative.
However, efforts to encourage wider use of rail have been hampered by the relatively high cost of rail compared to flights, with a Greenpeace analysis last month pointing to how popular rail routes across Europe over the festive period were on average 3.4 times more expensive than equivalent flights.
As such, campaigners are continuing to call on governments to introduce new policies and taxes to curb the availability of short haul flights and tackle the price differential between rail journeys and flights.