The train is too rarely an alternative to the plane – economy

It’s a debate that everyone is familiar with now – on a business trip or before going on vacation: should it be the plane, or could you not also take the more climate-friendly train? On the popular Berlin-Frankfurt route, for example, an air passenger is responsible for 127 kilograms of greenhouse gases, while rail passengers cause just under eleven kilograms.

Faced with these differences, the candidate of the Greens Annalena Baerbock spoke of the ban on short journeys during the electoral campaign. But this demand quickly disappeared from the election campaign of the Greens. Because everyone who travels a lot knows that the train is sometimes a good alternative – but often not, not yet. The environmental organization Greenpeace had this calculated in detail: for the 150 most important roads in the EU which can be reached in one to two hours by plane, but which could also be reached by train. The result: Sometimes the train works well, but in a number of cases a blanket ban on short journeys would make the journey almost impossible.

A third of these connections can be made by train in less than six hours – this is the acceptable and competitive travel time for Greenpeace, for example Amsterdam-Paris (3h23), Paris-Frankfurt (3h50) or Venice-Naples (5 : 10 h). Flights should be banned on all these routes, demands the organization. Especially on 21 of the 150 most important travel links where the train takes less than four hours, such as Madrid-Barcelona (2h30). The survey shows that on 23 routes, the traveler would be on the road for more than 16 hours.

Land travel is made more difficult by increasingly poor international rail links, criticizes Greenpeace after reviewing all timetables. Eurostar, for example, has significantly reduced its tunnel trains between Great Britain and France. Only buses now run between Sweden and Norway. And on the Frankfurt-Lyon line, an important link between Germany and France, there is only one direct train per day – which is an example of how passengers passing from l plane to train have to reckon with cumbersome transfers. At least, night train connections are becoming more attractive again: Vienna-Paris and Zurich-Amsterdam start in December.

Lufthansa has canceled at least the Nuremberg-Munich route

Moreover, according to Greenpeace, Germany bears the “greatest responsibility” for air traffic in Europe: a third of the 150 busiest European routes end or start in this country. And for many, the train journey time is less than six hours – in the Frankfurt-Berlin example, it’s 3 hours and 54 minutes. And from city center to city center, without registration, without waiting at the door and without using the S-Bahn, as they point out to the environmental protection association. This in turn coincides with the attitude of the Federal Ministry of Transport, previously headed by Andreas Scheuer (CSU): There they do not want to ban domestic flights, but they want to reduce them through better connections and financial incentives. . Indeed, from next year, investment funds in railways will for the first time be higher than those in roads (9.3 billion euros against 8.3 billion euros), and the Sales tax on long-distance train tickets has also been reduced to seven percent, air traffic tax on the other hand has increased slightly.

Incidentally, Lufthansa has already reacted in one case: the Munich-Nuremberg link within Bavaria was canceled this summer – but the alternative clearly shows the difficulty: an express bus now runs between the two airports because there is no still no express trains stopping at Munich airport, which the airline has constantly criticized. After all, this alternative is also relatively environmentally friendly: an aircraft in domestic service emits 214 grams of climate-damaging greenhouse gases per passenger-kilometer. A car always weighs 154 grams – a long-distance train or a long-distance bus, on the other hand, only 29 grams.

Despite these differences and ongoing debates, flight is less responsible for climate change than some might assume. Global air traffic contributes 3.5% to global warming through CO₂, contrails or soot, insofar as it is caused by humans, as shown by a large international study involving the German Aerospace Center a year ago. Far more serious factors are the production of electricity and heat from coal, gas and oil and the combustion of gasoline and diesel while driving.

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