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Four times more direct plane routes than train links from Brussels

13:58 04/07/2024

Six times more people who set off from Brussels to another European destination are taking a plane instead of a train to get there, according to research by Greenpeace.

Greenpeace’s analysis revealed that European cities are still much better connected by air than by rail, with 41 of the 44 cities surveyed able to be reached by direct flight from Brussels, compared to only 11 by train.

“For years, Europe has rolled out the red carpet for climate-damaging air travel and showered them with tax breaks, while trains and rail infrastructure continue to rot,” said Joeri Thijs, spokesperson for Greenpeace Belgium.

“European governments and the EU must correct this historical imbalance by improving train connectivity and comfort and ending the unfair advantages of the airline industry.”

The organisation analysed 990 routes between 45 major European cities and found that only 12% of the routes are served by direct trains. For direct flights, the figure is 69%.

Greenpeace said there were 305 train routes that could easily be served by a direct train – routes that do not take longer than 18 hours, the current maximum travel time of an overnight train in Europe.

From Brussels, all but Luxembourg, Cologne and Kiev are accessible by plane. In contrast, only Amsterdam, Berlin, Cologne, Munich, London, Luxembourg, Lyon, Marseille, Paris, Prague and Vienna can be reached by direct train.

Greenpeace’s analysis found that by using already existing rail infrastructure, there could potentially be 17 additional train connections, namely Barcelona, Budapest, Birmingham, Bratislava, Edinburgh, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Ljubljana, Madrid, Milan, Naples, Rome, Stockholm, Valencia, Warsaw, Zagreb and Zurich.

The organisation is calling on the next federal government to provide more direct train connections and remove subsidies for aviation.

Written by Helen Lyons



I am sorry, but if you compare routes like Brussels-Cologne by train or plane (which don't even exist), or at the other extreme Brussels-Athens then I find it hard to take this "study" serious.
Currently train connections can or could be a better alternative for distances up to a few hundred kilometres. But anything beyond 3-4 hours transport time on a train and it is no longer a serious proposition. A train to Iceland, to Portugal or Oslo? Really? Though you can fly there in a couple of hours max plus up to 2 hours at the airport.
Overnight trains are an alternative some say? Thank you very much, but I'd rather sleep in my own, propper bed. And with the low occupancy numbers in night train carriages I wonder if anyone has ever calculated what the real CO-emission is then. It certainly cannot be nearly as good as daytime tranes carrying many times more passengers. And if you stuff more people on night trains the comfort dies again. So no, they are not an alternative to flying in any way, shape or form.

Jul 5, 2024 16:42

Night trains are definitely an alternative to flying and traveling on a train can be very agreeable and often not much more time consuming than flying: airports are often far out of the center, getting there takes time and one has to be there long before the flight, stations are right in town. The comfort on planes, stuck in your seat with little space, is minimal. No comparison to the benefit for the environment!
Sleepers, when the standards a are good and prices reasonable , are an excellent alternative and really fun, particularly for family traveling.
To this day it remains a mystery to me why there is no decent fast train between European institutions, mainly the the EU Parliament in Bruxelles and Strasbourg!!! It could be a two hour connection with a fast direct train via Luxemburg, where there is also a EU institution!

Jul 5, 2024 19:40

Favouring aircraft means overlooking or denying the climate-damaging effects of aircraft. It is good to call on the government to improve rail connections. The tax exemption for flights could and should be abolished, at least within Europe.

Jul 5, 2024 20:16