20 November 2006

Budget Flights vs The Train - Part III

The House of Commons environmental audit committee has called for an increase in air travel tax to factor in the environmental cost of flying, with the number of aircraft in the world set to double to 25,000 by 2025.

The majority of flights in Europe cover a distance of 310 miles or less. (It's also interesting that half of UK car journeys are 3 miles or less). Trains offer competitive travel times across the continent at a fraction of the cost in emissions caused by aviation. If you're going to the continent for a week, just allow an extra half-day. It's fun to play with the daddy of train websites -- the Deutsche Bahn website. The 1320 departure from Coventry, after a few changes, ends up arriving in Vienna at 0906 the next morning.

Hadley Freeman, in the Guardian, describes going by train from London to Ibiza (train-train-catamaran).
Flying has long lost its veneer of time-saving efficiency in my eyes … [Flying] does not take into account the amount of time you spend schlepping out to the airport on the hilariously named Stansted Express, queuing to check in, hanging around, watching your flight get cancelled, getting to the other end, waiting for your luggage and then getting into town. When I went to Ibiza last summer with some friends for a holiday, I left my flat at 10:30am and did not get to the villa at the other end until 7pm Spanish time.

There is something both literally and metaphorically grounding about travelling down at land level as opposed to being up in the air. You somehow feel more in control of your journey. You keep all your goods on you, giving you a sense of control, and the staff at least make a pretence of giving individual attention. And you know that if anything terrible happens, well, there isn't far to fall.

Knock-knock. "Miss Freeman? Will you come to dinner now?" Oh, well, if you insist. So off we all head to the dining car, which really does have white tablecloths - prompting another squeal. I eat an impressively delicious dinner while watching the French countryside whoosh past and the moon rise.

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