Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Train, Train, Train...

I love train trips, I really do, and I hate flying. Travelling by train is a true journey, an experience in itself, but flying is an ordeal - crap food, no sleep, cramped conditions - ending in disorientation as you stumble out of a tin can into a whole new country. I've published several accounts of train journeys, including the biggie of them all - the Trans-Siberian Railway, but I've never had anything good to write about a flight.

Flying has just got political. On the eve of the Scottish, Welsh and English local elections, you may have seen spoof ads in the papers today for 'Spurt Aviation', attacking Labour for being too close to the airlines. It takes a bit of digging into Spurt's website to find it is funded by Greenpeace, airportwatch and The Tories suggested whacking a bigger tax on every flight after one tax-free flight a year, which would only have hit the rich (the average number of flights by UK citizens is 0.75 per year), but retreated swiftly as the right wing press harrumphed that it would hit 'the ordinary traveller'.

Both George Monbiot and Chris Goodall both ruled out flying altogether in their recent books. But what struck me in their analysis was that distance is the main factor rather than mode of transport. Flying long distance results in similar emissions to driving and only twice that of taking the train. I've mentioned Bab Haddrill's overland trip to Australia before. While I'm sure it was fun, it apparently resulted in half the carbon emissions of flying directly. You could argue that in climate change terms, her journey was worse than someone flying to Goa to lie on the beach for a fortnight before flying back.

So, having done my long distance trips in my youth and now having small sprog in tow, we're doing our holidays in the UK this year, plus a train trip to Cologne for business. I'm really looking forward to that.

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At 1:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the richest 18% of UK citizens are responsible for over 50% of the flights

taxing the poor is a false excuse for doing nothing

planned aviation expansion will wreck the UK's chance to tackle climate change

we are all being asked to reduce by 60% ...the aviation industry plans to treble


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