The Advertising Standards Authority has been asked to adjudicate on which is the greenest mode of transport – budget airlines or trains.

EasyJet has asked the watchdog to investigate claims made by Virgin Trains in its latest advertising campaign.

In the “big train” adverts, Virgin maintains that a train trip emits three-quarters less carbon dioxide than a similar journey by air, a claim the airline says is fundamentally flawed. EasyJet has also accused its rival of exaggerating passenger numbers and failing to disclose whether any of the electricity it uses comes from nuclear power stations.

Virgin has countered by providing the ASA with details of research from the Edinburgh Centre of Carbon Management used in the campaign. It has also accused EasyJet of “desperation” in trying to discredit train travel.

The airline industry has so far taken the brunt of legislation and regulation aimed at tackling issues related to climate change.

There has yet to be a concerted industry-wide defence, rather individual operators have attempted to deflect criticism by pointing the finger elsewhere.

Some believe next in the firing line could be the automotive industry. But it is clearly keeping a close watch on the inability of the airlines to tackle the environmental challenges being presented to business and industry and learning valuable lessons on how not to do it.

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