The train is rarely an alternative to the plane – economy

It is a debate that everyone knows by now, on business trips or before going on vacation: does it have to be a plane or can not you also take the most climate-friendly train? On the popular Berlin-Frankfurt route, for example, a passenger on a flight is responsible for 127 kilograms of greenhouse gases, while train passengers only cause slightly less than eleven kilograms.

Faced with these differences, the green candidate Annalena Baerbock raised the ban on short trips during the election campaign. But this demand soon disappeared from the Green election campaign. Because anyone who travels a lot knows: the train is sometimes a good alternative, but often it is not, not yet. The environmental protection organization Greenpeace had this calculated in detail: for the 150 most important routes within the EU that can be reached in one or two hours by plane, but which can also be reached by train. The result: Sometimes train travel works well, but in some cases a blanket ban on short trips would make travel nearly impossible.

One 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 (3:23 a.m.), Paris-Frankfurt (3:50 a.m.) or Venice. Naples (5:10 am). Flights should be prohibited on all these routes, the organization demands. Especially in 21 of the 150 most important travel connections where the train takes less than four hours, such as Madrid-Barcelona (2:30 h). The survey shows that on 23 routes, the traveler would be on the road for more than 16 hours.

Overland travel is hampered by increasingly poor international rail connections, criticizes Greenpeace after reviewing all schedules. Of the Eurostar for example, it has significantly reduced its tunnel trains between Britain and France. And on the Frankfurt-Lyon route, a major connecting hub between Germany and France, there is only one direct train per day, which is an example of how passengers switching from plane to train have to deal with cumbersome transfers. At least the night train connections are more attractive again: Vienna-Paris and Zurich-Amsterdam start in December.

Lufthansa has at least canceled the Nuremberg-Munich route

By the way, according to Greenpeace, Germany has the “greatest responsibility” for air traffic in Europe: one third of the 150 most used EU routes end or start in this country. And for many, the travel time when using the train is less than six hours; in the Frankfurt-Berlin example, it is 3 hours and 54 minutes. And from city center to city center, without checking in, without waiting at the door and without using the S-Bahn, as highlighted by the environmental protection association. This in turn coincides with the attitude of the Federal Ministry of Transport, formerly chaired by Andreas Scheuer (CSU): there they do not want to ban domestic flights, but they want to reduce them through better connections and economic incentives. In fact, from next year the investment funds in the railways will be for the first time higher than those of the road (9,300 million euros compared to 8,300 million euros), and the tax on the sales of train tickets long-haul has also dropped to seven percent, the air traffic tax, on the other hand, went up a bit.

By the way, Lufthansa has already reacted in one case: the Munich-Nuremberg connection within Bavaria was canceled this summer, but the alternative clearly shows the difficulty: an express bus now runs between the two airports because there are still no express trains stopping at the Munich airport. , which the airline constantly criticized. After all, this alternative is also comparatively environmentally friendly: a plane in domestic operation emits 214 grams of climate-damaging greenhouse gases per passenger-kilometer. A car still 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, flying is less responsible for climate change than some might assume. Global air traffic contributes 3.5 percent to global warming through CO₂, contrails or soot, insofar as it is caused by humans, this was shown by a large international study involving the Aerospace Center German a year ago. Generating electricity and heat from coal, gas and oil and burning gasoline and diesel while driving are far more serious factors.

Vince Fernandez

"Professional food trailblazer. Devoted communicator. Friendly writer. Avid problem solver. Tv aficionado. Lifelong social media fanatic."

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