Trains vs. Planes: Eurostar Joins the Debate

Everytime we discuss aviation it generates some pretty passionate discussion. Now Eurostar, the company operating trains between London and Paris, and London and Brussels, has waded into the debate. The company has put out a press release claiming that an independent report commissioned by them shows that their trains emit 10 times less carbon dioxide than an equivalent journey by plane. They also claim that these findings may be conservative, as they don't take into account the extra harm done by polluting at altitude, or planes being held in holding patterns. The press release also refers to a YouGov poll that 39% of people in the UK have changed their travel habits because of climate change. Apparently this includes 3% of people who have stopped flying and 6% who have reduced the amount they fly. 54% say they are more concerned about the environmental impact of flying than they were five years ago.

Knowing that our readers are a discerning bunch, we contacted Eurostar to see if the research was accessible by the general public. They told us, unfortunately, that it was not as it contained "commercially sensitive information." They did tell us that the report was conducted by a consortium of Paul Watkiss Associates and AEA Technology Environment.

If the reports claims are true, they could well influence consumer behavior, at least regarding short-haul flights. However, it would have been nice to look at the figures involved. The Guardian ran an interesting piece on this here followed, surprisingly enough, by some passionate debate. As one Guardian reader points out, part of the low CO2 figures for Eurostar must presumably be due to a significant proportion of French electricity being supplied nuclear power. Presumably they won't be promoting this part of the report to Greenpeace

Either way, the more information we can get on the relative harm done by various means of travel, the more informed decisions we can make. Does anyone know of any other, publicly available research on Eurostar vs. the airplane?

[Written by: Sami Grover]