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‘Australians recognise environmental benefits of European rail travel’: Rail Online


The agent-focused wholesaler is also celebrating its first birthday.

The Rail Online management team: Lachlan McCallum, Kew Muthalif, Kirsty Blows and James Dunne.

 

Rail travel is on track to become a bigger part of a European holiday in 2023 and beyond, with more Australian travellers recognising the environmental and efficiency benefits compared to flying, says Rail Online CEO, James Dunne.

As Rail Online this week celebrates its first full year of operations, Dunne said greater education and realisation of rail travel’s green benefits is already translating to some interesting market statistics.

So far in 2023, a clear return to traditionally popular train routes across the UK and Europe was being noticed, with services between London and Paris, London and Edinburgh and Paris to southern points performing particularly strongly.

High speed rail has a clear environmental advantage over air travel.

Across France, numerous sectors were experiencing spikes in traffic with bookings being made by rugby and sports fans for September and October when France hosts the IRB Rugby World Cup across nine cities.

Comparatively in 2022, many Australians were booking rail trips to far-flung and regional points to reunite with family and friends after the end of lockdowns and the reopening of national borders.

“In 2022 Australians used rail networks to reconnect with the people they love, this year it’s all about rail journeys to the places they love,” Dunne said.

Patronage of more rail services was also seeing Australians taking advantage of lower prices for rail passes over point-to-point fares, which had risen in line with demand.

This popularity was now leading governments across the continent to invest heavily in improvements to rail corridors and infrastructure across the continent.

Trains also move travellers directly to and from city centres.

More than €5.4 billion was being spent across 130 transport projects, of which many feature rail, as the European Union targets a goal of tripling current high-speed rail passenger numbers by 2050.

These projects include new 350kph rail lines linking the Czech Republic capital of Prague with cities across Austria, Slovakia, Poland and Germany. Further, the development of the Fehmarn Belt tunnel between Denmark and Germany will reduce an hour-long ferry journey to a seven-minute rail trip.

Use of high-speed railways is also expected to increase after many European nations removed competition barriers, allowing more operators to introduce or expand services across borders, improving competition and lowering fares.

New low-cost initiatives are also on the rise, such as Lumo, which operates exclusively (for now) on the UK’s main east-coast corridor between London’s King’s Cross and both Edinburgh and Newcastle.

The removal of competition is seeing new services pop up across Europe and the UK.

Lumo’s all-economy 2-2 seating arrangement is proving no obstacle for travellers eager to take advantage of fares starting from £35 (AU$60) per person.

More European nations are also expected to follow the lead of France by banning short-range flights to get more people onto trains. The French ban, now in effect, prohibits airlines flying sectors which can be reached by a train journey of 2.5 hours or less.

This climate-focused initiative is just one of the aces trains have up its sleeve, says Dunne.

“An awareness of the convenience and cost savings rail journeys offer will drive bookings, but there are other factors at play,” Dunne added.

“Most importantly, Australian travellers are becoming increasingly aware that rail travel generates just a fraction of the carbon emissions of air travel.”

Rail Online General Manager Australia and New Zealand, Kirsty Blows, said the future was bright for European rail travel and Aussies are reaping the benefits.

“There has never been a more exciting time for the high-speed rail sector and Rail Online is well positioned to fulfil its goal of becoming the world’s most valued and frequently used travel app for rail transport,” Blows said.

 


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Written by: Matt Lennon
Published: 8 February 2023

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