6 November 2019 by David Warne
Wexas Commercial Director David Warne explains why rail journeys to Europe should be high on your holiday agenda.
Reduce your carbon footprint
As much as we all love travelling, there's no escaping the fact that flying is one of the biggest contributors to our personal carbon footprint. A recent survey from the Committee on Climate Change estimated that for the average Briton flying accounted of 12% of their total personal carbon footprint in 2014, rising to 22% by 2030. If you fly more than average, then this figure would, of course, be higher.
As awareness grows, many of us are looking to balance our desire for overseas adventure with the impact of our travels. One option is to offset the carbon emissions from your flights and we would certainly recommend this for long-haul flights, where there generally isn’t generally any feasible alternative to flying. For a more detailed analysis, see our article on carbon offsetting.
However, short flights emit almost twice as much carbon per passenger kilometre as longer flights and anything up to 10 times the emissions created by travelling by train for a comparable journey. As there are convenient rail options from the UK to more European destinations than many people realise - particularly so if you live in the southeast of England - changing from flying to travelling by train needn’t be inconvenient.
Travelling by train to Europe - greener and often more convenient than flying
A convenient alternative to flying
In fact, when comparing total journey times, travelling by train can actually be just as quick as flying to a number of destinations in Europe; not only are most stations located in city centres – airports can be anything up to 50 miles outside of the city - but check-in times are shorter, immigration procedures quicker (where applicable) and there is no need to wait for your baggage on arrival.
In recent years Eurostar has added direct trains from London to Lyon, Avignon and Marseille to its network - making even the South of France conveniently accessible by train – as well as Amsterdam.
Marseille - a lot closer by rail than you might think
Furthermore, there are rumours of a direct service to Bordeaux being launched in 2020, with a journey time of just four and a half hours (it is worth noting that even the current journey via Paris can take as little as five and a half hours thanks to the new high-speed line between Paris and Bordeaux).
Beyond Eurostar’s destinations, the extensive network of national rail services means that many places in Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Germany and the Benelux countries can be reached comfortably within the course of a day’s travel.
And this isn’t just about taking the train rather than flying for short breaks. With longer holidays in Europe you can even make the journey part of the holiday. For example, you can consider breaking your journey - essentially taking a ‘stopover’ - en route to or from your final destination.
Quite apart from the obvious stopovers opportunities offered by Eurostar - Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Lille etc - there are some superb and unexpected combinations available with a little bit of imagination.
Why not stop in the Champagne region en route to Bordeaux and beyond to France’s West Coast using the daily direct high-speed train between the two regions? Or perhaps stop for a couple of nights in France’s foodie capital of Dijon en route to Italy or Switzerland.
There are also several ‘bucket-list’ rail journeys that can be incorporated into a longer rail-based holiday in Europe. For example, travel in one direction on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express between London and Venice and then take Eurostar and national rail in the other direction, stopping of at any number of interesting cities, including Verona, Munich or Lyon. Or include one of Switzerland’s incredibly scenic rail journeys aboard the Glacier Express or Bernina Express as part of a longer itinerary.
Switzerland's Glacier Express is truly spectacular
Many train services in Europe have received significant upgrades in recent years, making travelling by train a real pleasure. Which is not something that can be said of flying now that virtually all airlines have adopted a ‘low-cost’ flying model, where less legroom, seats that don’t recline and overpriced snacks are now the norm. Not to mention the experience at some airports, which can often be the low point of any holiday.
For even more comfort, upgrading to First class within Europe at off peak times often costs little more than a standard class ticket. Similarly, upgrading on Eurostar to Standard Premier or Business Premier, where complimentary meals and wine are served, can turn the journey into an occasion. Indeed, there are many good reasons to consider taking the train for your next holiday to Europe, quite apart from reducing your carbon footprint.
Inspired? Below you’ll find a selection of our favourite European journeys by rail. Or, talk to one of our specialists today to help you plan your perfect rail holiday.