Weedkiller ban would disrupt UK trains and raise ticket prices: study

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LONDON (Reuters) - British travelers could face higher train fares and disruption to services if controversial weedkiller glyphosate is banned, a study said on Tuesday, in a move that could cost the rail industry millions of pounds each year.

The European Parliament called for the weedkiller to be phased out in the next five years on Tuesday, prompting the European Commission to drop its proposal for a 10-year license extension.

A study by Oxford Economics found that if the weedkiller could no longer be used on Britain’s railways, manual weeding and other maintenance could increase costs by as much as 85 million pounds ($112 million) a year.

“If that’s met through ticket price increases... that represents a 0.9 percent increase to the average fare,” Pete Collings, lead economist at Oxford Economics, told Reuters.

Oxford Economics said that major cross-country railways would be among the most-affected lines in the country, including those that link the western city of Bristol to York in the north, the mainline between London and Leeds, and a track in Scotland which links Edinburgh with Glasgow.

Manual de-weeding could impact train schedules, the study said, and the prospect of more weeds on Britain’s tracks could hinder cameras aboard trains, which can spot rail defects.

A European Union regulatory committee will meet on Wednesday to discuss the future of the weedkiller, after the World Health Organization said in 2015 it probably causes cancer.

However, last week Reuters reported that the WHO’s cancer agency dismissed and edited findings from a draft of its review of glyphosate that were at odds with its final conclusion.

Reporting by Alistair Smout, editing by Pritha Sarkar