A RADICAL shift in travel habits by Scots has cut carbon emissions equal to two years of traffic on the M8, a new report has found.

A report by consultants Transform Scotland shows that in the past decade there has been a major change in how Scots travel to London, with a move to rail use that has saved more than 680,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.

This saving, the report says, is the equivalent of removing all traffic on the M8 travelling between the outskirts of Glasgow and Edinburgh for two years.

The report, A Green Journey to Growth, looks at the carbon savings already achieved by shifting travel from air to rail between Central Scotland and London, and details the additional emissions that would be saved should rail use continue towards a 50% share of the travel market.

The market is likely also to be boosted by new technology - David Horne, the managing director of Virgin Trains on the east coast route, said the new The Virgin Azuma train taking regular journeys to London down to four hours.

Colin Howden, director of Transform Scotland said: "The Scottish transport sector has failed to take significant action to tackle climate change, and has recently become the single largest source of carbon emissions.

"However, one area where there has been significant progress is in Anglo-Scottish travel, where rail's share of the travel market has grown strongly over the past decade.

"Our report shows that rail's success in capturing market share from air has prevented an increased in carbon emissions across the entire Scotland-London travel market."

Mr Howden said that to continue the trend, the country needed increased investment in the rail network, and the government and other public bodies encouraging their staff to use a train rather than fly to London.

He added: "For Scotland to meet its challenging climate targets, it is imperative that further action be taken to ensure that rail can grow to at least a 50% market share of the Scotland-London travel market over the next decade."

The report finds that in the last ten years that there has been a steady increase in the use of trains to get to London rather han air, with train use for that journey rising from 20% to 33% of the market.

Edinburgh to London by train has risen from 24% of journeys to 34%, with Glasgow to London rising from 15% to 32%.

In particular, the "very strong growth" of the Glasgow to London route has led to saving of "332,208 tonnes of carbon, enough to take 145,000 cars off the road for a year."

However, both Glasgow and Edinburgh airports have recently reported record years, with a large percentage of their business being flights to London.

Edinburgh Airport registered a record number of passengers in July, with more than 1.4m people through its terminal in July.

A spokesman said: "We're forecasting 16.5 million passengers per year by 2021 which shows the growth potential air, particularly Edinburgh, has.

"Passengers now have greater choice, however flying to London is the only option which provides the opportunity for a full day of work and a same day return."

He said that the airport is supportive of the Scottish Government’s "ambitious" carbon emissions targets.

A spokesman for Glasgow Airport said that of the 130 routes flown from the airport, the most popular is to Heathrow, as it is a major hub for connecting flights.

He added: "With London at least four hours travel by land based transport, air travel will remain important for Scotland to access London. "We are continuing to see high demand, both business and leisure, for all of our London services.

"Approximately 40% of passengers flying to Heathrow are using the service to hub onwards."

Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport and the Islands, said: "The Scottish Government has set some of the toughest climate change targets for the people of Scotland.

"I am therefore delighted to hear of the increase in the use of our railway, as it is a fundamental part of achieving our greener transport aspirations.

"I welcome the publication of this Transform Scotland report which showcases the environmental benefits of rail, and underlines the importance of having high speed rail connectivity between Scotland and London."

The report says that if the Edinburgh to London route was to continue is growth, reaching 50% by 2023, then it estimates an overall drop in emissions by 2023, with a further saving of 600,000 tonnes of carbon.

It adds: "Further emissions savings can be expected through the introduction of the new 'Azuma' trains on the East Coast route.

"We estimate that while a flight from Edinburgh to London emits 177kg CO2 per passenger, and existing trains ('HSTs') emit 34kg per passenger, that an Azuma will emit only 28kg -- 84% less than a flight."