More And More Flights Are Being Replaced By Trains To Help The Environment

Have you ever had to decide on the train vs plane when traveling? Soon, you may not have a choice as governments and companies look to do more for the environment. This is especially true in the Netherlands, where the government wants to ban flights on short journeys.

There are many occasions where it may be quicker or easier to travel by train as opposed to the plane. Take the short hop from Manchester to London. The only time it would ever appear to make sense to fly this route is as part of a connecting itinerary. Indeed, in Hong Kong, a new high-speed rail link is threatening Cathay Pacific’s market share.

Train vs plane
Could trains replace short flights? Photo: Virgin Trains

Environmental benefits

The big drive for this change is the environmental benefit of taking a train. Let’s jump back to our London to Manchester example. According to the London North Eastern Railways’ carbon calculator, a flight takes 30.32kg of CO2 per passenger. In contrast, taking the train comes in at just 44% of the value, at just 13.47kg of CO2 pp.


This is the thinking behind a group of MPs from the Netherlands, who are specifically looking at the route between Amsterdam and Brussels. While taking the train on this short route is better for the environment, they claim that it can also be much quicker.

Train vs Plane
A group of Dutch MPs are attempting to stop flights between Amsterdam and Brussels. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Time benefits

Jumping back to the London to Manchester example, we can perfectly illustrate this point. The fastest train journey between London Euston and Manchester Picadilly takes just two hours and four minutes.

You may say ‘hang on, it only takes an hour and five minutes to fly from London to Manchester’, but that’s not the whole picture. Taking the Heathrow Express from London’s Paddington to Terminal 5 will cost you 21 minutes. Now add the 35 minutes before the flight that you need in order to get through security.


We’re already at the same amount of time as taking the train, and we haven’t accounted for the journey from the airport to the centre of Manchester. In contrast, passengers can turn up to the train station and board the train as little as 60 seconds before departure.

Airport connections

Trains are also being used to bolster airport connections. This is a service which both Lufthansa and Air France offer to connect passengers at lesser served cities. Take the example of Cologne to Madrid. Purchasing a ticket with Lufthansa would see passengers initially routed to Frankfurt with a Deutsche Bahn ticket. The passenger would then fly from Frankfurt to Madrid with Lufthansa.

Train vs Plane
Passengers from Cologne to Madrid are routed via a train connection to Frankfurt. Source: Google Flights

A similar example would be London to Strasbourg. Rather than flying directly from London to Strasbourg, Air France will sell the ticket for the route but only fly as far as Paris. The airline would then place passengers on a TGV service from Paris to Strasbourg to complete their journey.

Given the choice of train vs plane, which would you choose? Let us know in the comments down below!


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Barend de Klerk

I see this as false advertising by airlines! If you book a airline ticket you expect to fly!

Aircraft Lover

Since planes take a huge amount of energy, just to take off, shorter flights, actually have larger CO2 footprint, per passenger, per mile, than longer ones

Aircraft emit much more than just carbon dioxide:
They spew particles matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfates
These compounds also trap heat and have an outsized effect on warming, when they’re emitted at cruising altitude

Should you drive instead? The longer the distance, the more efficient flying becomes because cruising requires less fuel

If you’re taking a short trip, it may be better to drive
Flying nonstop can help, too: The more times you take off, the more fuel you use

Hein Vandenbergh

When in Europe I more and more take the train. Amsterdam Central to Paris Nord takes barely 3 1/2 hrs. Flying would take much more than that, city centre to city centre, security, inevitable flight delays etc etc. One can put a productive day aside for this. Trains: on time, much more environmentally friendly, and far less of a general hassle. Surely, one doesn’t buy a ticket to fly: one buys a ticket to get from A to B most efficiently, and on short intercity routes trains have the upper hand in spades.

Ted Feuerbach

I am an American, living in Aachen, Germany (right next to the Netherlands and Belgium). With all of the hassles of air travel (crowds, security, checking bags, city airports usually outside of the CBD, etc.), it is usually quicker and cheaper to take the train. The rule of thumb is that it is better to use high speed rail for trips up to 5 hours. I will go up to over six just because of the hassle factor of flying. You are always free to move around the “cabin” and there is never an announcement that “Things will get a… Read more »

Joanna Bailey

Europe is so far ahead of the UK in terms of trains… it takes me close to 7 hours to get from Cornwall to London on the train (that’s without any delays) where I could drive it in 4 – 5 hours or fly in 45 mins.