The future of travel: train or plane and contrails

The future of travel: trains or planes? In May 2021, the French government banned domestic flights if the same distance can be covered by train in less than 2.5 hours. This law applies to 5,000 flights from 200,000 domestic flights in France annually, saving 55,000 t CO₂ – 0,23% of French aviation industry emissions. British journalist Joe Zadeh decided to check how the French solution works. Last summer, he travelled 2,752 km on 10 French trains, which took him almost 27 hours, and emitted 90% less CO₂ than if traveled by plane. The train ticket cost him 201 sterling.

As Europeans look for low-emission travel, Austrian rail operator ÖBB announced the return of the night train from Berlin to Paris nine years after the cancellation of this connection. In Mannheim, Germany, there will be a hub for night trains and Brussels-Vienna and Paris-Vienna connections, where you can change to a train to Berlin.

Passenger planes leave contrails – ice crystals that create artificial clouds around particles found in aircraft exhaust gases. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), contrails are responsible for approximately 35% of aviation’s contribution to global warming. Thanks to satellites and the use of machine learning, planes can avoid contrails. The key is to avoid moist “ice-saturated areas” while flying. This usually requires altitude-like manoeuvres to avoid areas of turbulence.

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