Dutch airline KLM recently launched a brand new promoting campaign called “Fly Responsibly”. Remarkably, it seems to encourage viewers to fly less. “Do you usually have to satisfy face-to-face?”, the advert asks. “Could you are taking the train as an alternative?”.

The influence of climate campaigner Greta Thunberg likely explains why airlines feel obliged to say this stuff. Flight shame – or “” – has gripped many regular flyers with a way of unease in regards to the aviation industry, which consumes five million barrels of oil a day and is predicted to account for around 22% of worldwide carbon emissions by 2050.

European high-speed rail networks already offer an alternative choice to air traffic between European countries for distances shorter than 1,000 kilometres. For longer journeys, sleeper trains have gotten increasingly popular. These services run through the night and offer passengers a berth to sleep in. As an increasing number of consumers query the ethics of their next flight, rail firms see a possibility – and competition with airlines is heating up.

But can night trains help offset the international journeys that almost all people currently make by aeroplane?

Because of the altitude at which aeroplanes fly, their carbon emissions have more of a direct warming effect than ground transport.
Peter Gudella/Shutterstock

The renaissance of European night trains

From 2009 until 2018, the European night train network shrank steadily. The same is true for conventional intercity train networks, especially in southern and western Europe. This made air travel the one alternative on many routes. But that appears to be changing.

When German Rail decided to withdraw its network of overnight passenger trains in 2015, Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) decided to take over a few of its services. In 2017, ÖBB’s Nightjet services carried around 1.4 million passengers, greater than doubling its total passengers from the previous yr.

In 2018, ÖBB achieved one other 10% increase in passenger numbers. ÖBB CEO, Andreas Matthä, said that “overnight services are a viable alternative to short-haul flights” and committed to proceed investing in recent services. As a result, ÖBB is expanding its routes on the NightJet network of sleeper trains. From January 2020, night trains will once more run between Vienna and Brussels, 16 years after the service closed.

In the UK, Great Western Railway plans to renovate the sleeper trains it runs to Cornwall. The Caledonian Sleeper, which runs between London, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen has been revamped with a £150 million investment in recent trains.

In response to a public petition, the Swedish government plans to reintroduce night train services to other European countries. A sleeper train service from Malmö in southern Sweden to London has been planned for 2022 on the earliest. The service could set off within the evening and arrive within the English capital at lunchtime the subsequent day. At almost 1,300 kilometres, the trip is typical of the various rail journeys that might offset those currently taken between European countries by aeroplane.

An alternative to air travel?

Aviation industry CEOs are anxious that flight shame could threaten passenger traffic and in some countries this already appears to be happening. Swedavia, an airline which operates ten of Sweden’s busiest airports, reported a 4% fall in passengers in 2019 compared with the previous yr. The decrease was primarily in domestic travel, while the variety of international passengers fell to a lesser extent. Despite this, European air traffic still grew by 4.2% in 2019.

It’s too soon to say whether the night train revival is a everlasting trend prompted by . Nevertheless, environmental awareness still motivates the alternatives of travellers.

Sleeper train operators promise comfort to entice would-be flyers.

Researchers who study consumer profiles in several markets recently identified a brand new one: the “environmental traveller”. People who fall into this market segment try to take care of a life-style that’s as environmentally friendly as possible – and that features reducing the variety of flights they take.

But the researchers found that awareness of the environmental crisis doesn’t robotically translate into behaviour changes, equivalent to selecting other transport modes over air travel. Most often, distance or cost are more powerful motivations, particularly for brief and medium-haul routes.

A recent study from the Netherlands found that passengers who travel for leisure purposes appear to be most drawn to the choice of night trains. It’s possible that night train services could simply generate recent demand from these customers as an alternative of substituting existing airline passengers. The researchers found that 40% of business travellers still opted to fly the day before and stay in a hotel as an alternative, though many thought the relative comfort of sleeper trains was appealing.

Sleeper trains might appeal to backpackers, but can they provide an alternative choice to frequent flying businesspeople?

Research conducted on behalf of the European parliament is way more pessimistic, concluding that there are more challenges than opportunities for night trains to grow in Europe. Chief amongst them is the continued growth of low-cost airlines. Infrastructure costs currently prohibit long-distance night trains which could have the ability to tempt more passengers out of those aeroplanes. Subsidy and investment to expand rail networks could also be vital for the sector to compete with aviation. Making airlines pay fuel duty could also help.

In the meantime, could still be effective if it means people keep the pressure on the aviation industry to reform and reduce its growing carbon footprint.

This article was originally published at theconversation.com