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Greenpeace calls for rail boost to cut air travel

GREENPEACE called on European governments today to boost train travel as an alternative to polluting short-haul flights.

In a study by OBC Europa, published ahead of the global Cop26 summit that opens in Glasgow on Sunday, the charity found that 34 per cent of the 150 busiest short-haul flights have rail alternatives that emit a fraction of the carbon dioxide.

Routes including Madrid-Barcelona, Frankfurt-Berlin and Brussels-Amsterdam could be covered by train in two to four hours, the study said.

“Europe could replace almost all of the top 250 short-haul flights and save some 23.4 million tons of CO2 per year, as much as the annual CO2 emissions of Croatia,” Greenpeace said. 

China, which rolled out the world’s most extensive high-speed rail network from the early 2000s, has recorded a significant drop in domestic aviation on affected routes despite continued economic growth.

Signature routes like the dedicated high-speed track between Beijing and Shanghai, dubbed the “world’s fastest passenger train,” cover the 819 miles in four hours 18 minutes at speeds of up to 217 miles per hour.

Though flights take around two-and-a-half hours, when travel to and waiting in airports is factored in, the rail route is almost as fast.

A 2017 study by Chen Zhenhua found a decrease in domestic flight passengers of 28.2 per cent and a 24.6 per cent reduction in flights themselves following the introduction of high-speed rail routes between destinations, with the biggest impact on journeys of 500-800km (310-500 miles).

The Wuhan-Guangzhou line caused a 45 per cent decline in air travel between 2001 and 2014, while the Beijing-Shanghai line prompted a 34 per cent drop.

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