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Trains vs Planes

Climate change is a topic for strong discussions

Climate change is a daily headline in most TV journals and newspapers, and topic for strong discussions on social media. It is a fact that it is an unavoidable and, with the (unfortunate) exception of a few, and undeniable fact, that goes beyond borders, threatening public health and even the whole existence of current and future generations.

I’m however happy to read some good news, that should be highlighted and deserve some praise to the people and organisations behind it.

A change in the political mentality

Being someone close to the railways and Portuguese, I couldn’t ignore CP’s (Portuguese Railway Company) new strategic plan. It reflects a change in the political mentality and is a recognition that there was a problem, and something had to be done! Portugal desperately needed this plan!

The other news I’m happy to talk about were both published recently and are very good examples of a change and the awareness of both governments, companies, and private citizens of their responsibility regarding the environment and climate change.

Long distance travel - VAT cut

The first one focuses on the fact of the German governments decision to cut down VAT (from 19% to 7%) on all long-distance train service tickets and simultaneously DB Fernverkehr (long-distance services) decided to reduce by 10% all train tickets. Both measures serve to promote railway transportation, in accordance to a series of actions undertaken to protect the environment and fight climate change. As a consequence and expecting this will drive an increase in the passenger transport demand, DB has decided to buy 30 new high-speed trains.

Trains to replace KLM flights

The second one refers to the fact that KLM will be replacing regular airplane services with high-speed train ones. From March 2020 onwards five daily services between Amsterdam and Brussels will run using the Thalys TGV trains.

The start of a solution must involve everyone

Finally, and also in alignment with this subject, Time magazine published an article that speaks of the fact that some European citizens (mainly from Northern and Central Europe) are replacing, by their own individual initiative, air travel by train travel.

Last year Deutsche Welle published an interesting benchmarking analysis. It shares some figures comparing the costs, duration and impact of the use of air travel between some of the main European cities is mind-blowing, especially in what concerns the level of carbon dioxide emission levels.

It is unquestionable that the train is currently the most efficient mean of transportation.

And yet we are far from an ideal scenario. The UN defends openly the taxation of strong polluters (CO2 taxation) but will this be enough? Won’t there be a risk that in some situations this create an even greater social unbalance, for those who struggle to have access to clean public transportation?

I personally believe that the examples mentioned above have a more positive stance and hence will be better received by the people in general. But it also serves to show that a solution (or the start of a solution) can and must involve all players – citizens, companies and governments.