We’re forever being told that we should be walking or cycling more, and driving our cars less often. But what if the journey is too long to be possible or practical without the power of something with a motor? Many people don’t realise that train travel could be one of the key answers to lowering our carbon footprint, whether it’s for commuting, day trips or even going on overseas holidays.
Trains versus planes
For many years, people have been choosing to fly across the Channel to holiday in mainland Europe. It’s normally the cheapest way to do it, but is at a huge environmental cost. Taking the Eurostar from London to Paris, for instance, cuts emissions by 90% compared to flying, and those wanting to venture to neighbouring countries while minimising their impact on the planet may be tempted to use this option in future. Though figures vary between electric and diesel engines, and how full the train is that you’re travelling on, there’s no form of rail transport which doesn’t offer a considerable carbon footprint saving compared to air travel.
Many travellers also get fed up with the experience of flying – those hours in soulless airport waiting rooms. There are also often unexpected costs, such as when your bag is considered slightly too large or heavy – this can actually make the flight more expensive than travelling by rail.
Trains versus cars
No matter how much we love our cars, those vehicles that aren’t electric are terrible polluters, especially given the UK’s increased appetite for SUVs. The bigger the car, the more CO2 it puffs out, and our vehicles now emit the equivalent of 158g of CO2 per passenger mile.
Travelling by train, however, can significantly lower your carbon footprint, whether your journey is long or short, as rail travel emits just 14g of CO2 per passenger mile.
And we’re lucky here in the UK that most parts of the country are accessible by rail, so whether you’re planning a trip to London, Cornwall, the Peak District or the Scottish Highlands, you can get there with a vastly reduced impact on the environment.
In recent years there has been growing awareness of how our journeys – whether day-to-day or long haul – impact the natural world. Many companies, towns and cities promote walking and cycling to work as an alternative to driving, as well as car sharing where possible. Also, more people are choosing to stay in the UK for their holidays, not just because of Covid, but because they know how harmful flying is. Yet there are still so many trips taken by car that could be easily undertaken by rail instead at tremendous benefit to the planet.
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