July 4, 2019

How trains gain ground on replacing flights

“Rail travel is soaring thanks to climate fears", says Tobbe Lundell, spokesman at the Swedish Railways.

Something is moving in the transportation industry, as the flygskam, or “flight-shaming” movement pushes towards more ethical ways of travelling. The buzzword emerged in Sweden over the past year and refers to feeling embarrassed to board a plane because of the impact on the climate

The biggest winner of this trend is the train industry, as it offers an environmental-friendly alternative for short flights. “Rail travel is soaring thanks to climate fears,” says Tobbe Lundell, spokesman at the Swedish Railways. The trend is emerging throughout Europe.

#stayontheground

But does it really make such a big difference? Let’s compare the CO2 per passenger produced by a London-Paris Eurostar journey with that emitted by a London-Paris flight. Independent research showed that taking the train to Paris instead of flying cuts CO2 emissions per passenger by 90%. It may even have a greater benefit, because planes emit their CO2 directly into the upper atmosphere, where it is likely to do over twice the damage. This means that staying on the ground is a powerful way to help you shrink your carbon footprint.  

flightshame - flygskam The “flight-shaming” movement pushes towards more ethical ways of travelling.

Shorter journey time

Train travel is rapidly gaining charm for other reasons as well. While trains used to be much slower, they are quickly catching up due to changes in aerodynamics and tilting behavior.

You could say that a flight from London to Paris still saves you one hour, but that’s not the whole picture. Take into account your drive to the airport, the time you need to get through security and the time to reach the center of Paris. This gives a completely different view on total travel hours, the overall cost and the requirement for multiple changes.

Comfort benefits

There is of course far more to a journey than simple numbers, there is the intangible element.  While many business travelers describe air travel as increasingly stressful, trains offer a far more enjoyable travel option with their WiFi connections, mobile phone coverage, space to work on a laptop and opportunities to talk with others.  The ever changing landscape, the space to stretch ones legs and the much better dining options all make for a more positive experience.  On top of this research has shown that rail travel in Europe is considerably more reliable than aviation. All these factors reduce stress and have a positive impact on the long term health of regular travelers.  

On balance for the majority of business travel in Europe a train is the most comfortable, most environmental and most enjoyable option.

flygskam flightshame train alternative Planes cause more travel stress than trains - Picture © Govia Thameslink Railway

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