Which one will you go with, quick airfare, or greener train?

Traveling is finally getting back to normality after the long-lasted pandemic. Many, including me, are excited to get to travel again and see our families and friends across the Atlantic. However, while airports around the world are getting busy again, discussion about greenhouse gas emission of the aviation industry rises. People are reminded that flying is a major cause of global pollution, and we should seek alternative travel forms, like trains.

Article, published on EuroNews travel section, released data from Eurostat which states that air travel increased with 73% compared to a year ago. Traveling by plane has become extremely easy and so called short-haul flights seem to win in popularity over the train or bus.

  • Increased air travel routes
  • Short travel times via the skies
  • Cheaper flights
  • Economic situation and global increases in income allows people to prefer flying over other transportation forms

All these factors indicate an increase on short-haul flights, not a decrease. However, increase in flights has a negative environmental impact that shouldn’t be ignored, according to the scientists. Flying is said to destroy the planet, and people should be considering alternative travel options, especially the train. However, in the society we live in, time is money, who can afford taking a 6-hour train ride over a short, less than 2 hour flight?

airplane taking off, sunset in the background
Traveling via the skies has become a norm, easy, and affordable way to travel.

In Finland, traveling by the train is common, daily thing for many. Train from Tampere to Helsinki takes less than 2 hours in a comfortable designated seat. Many trains have Wi-Fi so working during commuting is convenient and no work hours are lost. But what then when work travel is between states, or from the US to Europe. Last time I checked we didn’t have a rail connection from America to Europe…

Flying is fast and affordable way to travel. However, it seems to also be the fastest way to destroy the planet (EuroNews). For remote areas, flying might be the only option. Train might be greener and better choice, but if you cannot get to your destination by train, then it simply is not an option.

So, if flying is bad for the planet, but train is not an option, what could people do differently to contribute saving the planet?

  • Avoiding 1 transatlantic flight saves eight (8) times more greenhouse gas emissions in a year than recycling.
  • According to Finnair, if every passenger would pack 1 kilogram less in their luggage, that would save 1.2 million flight fuel per year. Put in context that means 20 flights from Helsinki to Tokyo.

Europe is already thinking of solutions.

Average rail journey has been said to emit 70 % – 90 % less CO2 than equivalent flight. Europe is supporting an idea of banning short haul flights according to these numbers. France is planning to remove all flights that are 2.5 hours or less. Spain supports this idea and is also planning a speed train connection from Paris to London.

Europe is planning to double its train travel by 2030, and triple it by 2050. Italy and Finland are pioneers with train travel and perhaps we shall see more competition on the rails as well like we already see in the aviation industry.

Green train
Increase in train travel could increase competition and bring cheaper train options to the market.

However, there is still a lot of work to do to increase the popularity of train travel. According to Greenpeace, only 34% of the busiest short haul flights has a train alternative that is less than 6 hours. Traveling by railroads might be greener than flying via the skies, but they are not quite there yet to be compared equally. And who knows, maybe the aviation industry will come up with greener solutions so we could have it all; fastness, conveniency as well as greener, more environmental option, via the skies.

Safe holiday travels to all; no matter which way you decide to transport yourself to see your family for Thanksgiving.