Trains versus planes in Europe

Published: 8 March, 2024 | Tags:

Most players in aviation recognise that the industry needs to decarbonise. So do European policymakers, who are trying to replace short-haul air travel with rail. But as Philip Georgiadis and Alice Hancock report in the Financial Times, the plan is far from straightforward.

Aviation benefits from tax rebates such as tax-free fuel and no VAT on ticket sales. Airport and aircraft makers receive subsidies, and trains are expected to compete on price as well as speed and convenience. “The failure of governments to properly tax the aviation sector for the fuel it uses and the pollution it causes has created an uneven playing field,” says Paul Morozzo, a transport campaigner at Greenpeace.

EU countries also tend to overlook international connections in favour of domestic routes when planning. And while there is healthy competition between airlines, the train equivalents, there is little competition on train routes.