With attention growing on choosing a greener holiday, is a rail holiday the answer?

Do you consider your carbon footprint when choosing your holiday? No? Well, you’re not alone. Recent research by a holiday booking company revealed that 75% of Brits don’t consider this when choosing their holidays. But there are definitely greener ways to holiday, rail being one of them. Read on.

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Is my holiday carbon footprint really an issue?

It’s an interesting question, one that’s often followed by “well, can’t we just plant a few more trees?” More on the tree issue in a moment, but first let’s look at the impact the travel industry is having on the planet and go from there.

The world just recently greeted the arrival of its eight-billionth member of the human race; that’s two billion more than in the year 2000. The good news is that the growth rate is slowing. The bad news, from an ecological perspective, is that not only have travel options increased immensely, but travel has increasingly become financially accessible to a far greater number of people. To put this into perspective, over the last 60 years or so, international tourist arrivals (globally) have risen from just 25 million or 1% of the world’s population at the time, to over 1.4 billion or around 18% of the world’s population.

At the time of writing, the tourism industry is responsible, by some estimates, for around 8% of the world’s carbon footprint. Transport options are responsible for half of this.

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So, can’t we just plant a few more trees? Sure you can. Here’s an example, albeit the most extreme involving long distance flights to Australia. But then these are much fewer than flights around Europe.

The number of trees needed to offset the carbon produced by a flight to Australia for one person is around 278 (recent travel industry player analysis). There are around 33,500 arrivals in Australia from the UK. That all equates to 9.3 million trees to be planted per year, just from one destination and one origin. Flying around Europe by comparison requires between 11 and 40 trees to be planted per flight. Given that in 2020 there were around 40 million flights made globally (which is double that of 2000), and if we take a conservative number of average trees per flight of say 20, that’s a whopping 800 million trees per year required. And, don’t forget, there are plenty of other Industries competing to plant trees to offset their impact too. The question then remains: “Where on earth are all these trees going to go, and who’s going to plant them?”

The reality is, planting trees is only a small part of the solution. This is why aviation companies are desperately looking at greener fuel research and options. It’s simply not sustainable to continue in the way we are.

So, is train travel the answer?

It’s certainly part of the answer, at least until a solution to aviation’s enormous CO2 output is found.

A piece of the puzzle people often forget in assessing the merits of different transport options, is how passengers get to the transport in the first place. Flying requires travelling to the airport of departure, which might be some distance away. Therefore the CO2 output of the car taking the passenger also needs to be factored in as well as the infrastructure and activities supporting the airport.

So how much CO2 is rail transport responsible for?

The last report from the international Energy Agency and the International Union of Railways, albeit in 2017, reported that rail transport accounted for 4.2% of CO2 output. By contrast, road transport accounts for over 72% of CO2 output.

With rail based holidays, you only need to get to a railway station, or make a trip to the point of departure, which is often only a small part of the itinerary and with a subsequently small impact on CO2 emission. However, we acknowledge that many of the tours we operate in different countries require clients to get to a departure point under their own steam, which might require making a flight, but often less than 25 trees worth. In these circumstances, choosing to spend 7 to 10 days experiencing what a country has to offer by rail, is likely to be far less impactful on the environment than driving a car around.

Furthermore, if you are really keen to make an impact by choosing a greener transport option for your holiday, why not consider using the train to get to the holiday’s point of departure. Sure, it’s somewhat more complex, but if you love rail travel, it’s an adventure.

What are some of the other benefits of taking a holiday by rail?

The whole point of a rail based holiday is convenience and comfort. On a PTG rail tour you won’t find yourself rushing around, working out what to go and see each day, what to eat, how to get there, booking taxis, coaches or hiring cars. Everything you need is provided for you. No need to worry about flight delays and cancellations or any transport and accommodation arrangements, it’s all taken care of. Just turn up and relax.

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Our rail based holidays put you in the heart of the experience, often places you wouldn’t go as a regular tourist on a flight based holiday. You get to enjoy the scenery as you travel between points on your itinerary as opposed to flying 35,000 feet above it, or being transfixed on the road ahead, worried about missing a turn if you drive.

When you arrive, we’ve put you in the centre of the attraction and you’ll feel more like a local too. Better still, you’ll have time to do what you want to do, whether that’s tag along on the local excursions we may lay on for you, or just amble around a location on your own. We’ll introduce you to the best and most interesting a local destination has to offer, whether that’s a place to see, a point of cultural interest, local food delicacies or interesting beverages.

Best still, is deep down, you know your choice of holiday has been better for the planet. And maybe, just maybe, your choices will influence other people to make wiser choices about their methods of transport.