Are trains the greener way to travel?

Whether you yearn for sustainability at every turn or you’re looking to be a bit more environment-conscious in general, when planning your next getaway, you might wonder whether you should catch a flight or hop on a train to get to your destination. Although many people opt to fly, it’s surprising how much greener and more sustainable travelling by train is, particularly if you’re doing a multi-journey trip.

In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, when comparing trains to cars or planes, it’s far more environmentally friendly. This is a fact that’s been stated in the recent Transport and Environment Report (2020). Within the report, there were two studies published by the European Environment Agency that assess how sustainable each mode of transport is. It states that by shifting to trains, it will contribute to decreasing the greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2050; a goal set by The European Green Deal

Of course, walking and cycling are the two most environmentally-friendly forms of travel; that’s a fact that won’t change. But if you’re looking to go further afield, then these modes of transport simply aren’t possible. This leads to you looking towards flying or perhaps going on a road trip in a car. 

However, according to the above report, passengers will emit the following amounts of CO2 per transport:

  • 14 g of CO2 / passenger/km for the train
  • 42 g CO2 / passenger/km for a small car
  • 55 g of CO2 / passenger/km for an average car
  • 68 g CO2 /passenger/km for a bus
  • 285 g CO2 /passenger/km for a plane

The difference between the amount of CO2 that’s emitted by a plane and a train is staggering. That’s almost 20 times more! Although CO2 emissions in flying are falling due to optimising technological programs (e.g the SESAR or Cleansky projects), and there are more and more eco-friendly cars being made available, overall trains are clearly the winner here.

Plus, with new electric trains, that emit zero emissions it’s fair to say that trains are definitely the greener way to travel. With the ability to carry up to 4,000 passengers per hour (which is around 60,000 per day based on 90 passengers per carriage), it’s far more friendly for the environment and more sustainable in the long term. 

There’s also the issue of noise pollution. A type of pollution that’s damaging to both humans and animals, it’s something that’s often forgotten about. Now, no form of transport is absolutely silent; even electric cars that promise to be quieter than their traditional counterparts. But train companies are taking their stance on this. 

Traditionally, trains can be pretty loud. But many governments around the world are working with these companies to help decrease noise pollution. For example, the Government of the Netherlands is starting to use rail dampers and are promoting new low-noise trains. 

So, there you go! Trains (and, therefore, Interrailing) are the greener way to travel when comparing them to other forms of transport. A sustainable way to see the world, nothing quite beats hopping onto a train and relaxing, whilst beautiful and unique scenery passes you by. Regardless of where you’re thinking of heading next, if you decide to choose to travel by train, you’re guaranteed an incredible time. Grab your Interrail pass now!