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Sustainable Travel

Rail travel makes a speedy comeback

With concerns over climate change and resource management reaching ever-higher levels, it is not surprising that methods of transport, other than via the congested road network, are becoming more popular with the travelling public

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Many individuals have already been converted to the idea of using air travel for long journeys across Europe, thanks to greatly reduced ticket pricing. Rail travel is frequently considered as the best alternative to flying to reach destinations within the UK. France and continental Europe are also now easily accessible by train, at relatively low prices and at high speed. Publicity for rail transport encourages the idea that rail travel is improving; with high-speed trains rivalling air travel, once the time spent waiting at the airport is taken into account.

Continued custom is essential to the survival of any business and Virgin is a good example of a train company that expends a great deal of effort in promoting its services. The company has managed to produce a dynamic image for its high-speed ‘Pendolino’ trains and enjoys a strong position in the inter-city rail services field. The company is now pushing for upgrades to rail lines to enable its trains to travel at even higher speeds, similar to those experienced in France; Amtrak in the US is a near equivalent.

Companies that champion the railways are also in support of the idea of using the network as a means of increasing the sustainability of transport. They include the power generation companies that supply the electricity used to power most modern trains. Needless to say, powering electric trains is a fairly significant source of electricity sales, so it is in the interests of these companies to encourage the transport flow onto the railways and less to the roads and skies where oil based fuels are used.

Environmental support groups concerned about climate change and fossil fuel consumption are also involved in trying to persuade more travellers to use the railways. Though electric trains still consume power, which is often produced from fossil fuels, this power is generated by power stations, where electricity can be produced highly efficiently. Power from ‘greener’ sources, such as wind turbines is also helping to power the grid and the input is growing all the time.

Trains are very efficient per traveller in general, as long as the carriages are reasonably well populated by customers keen to use the services. Therefore, the concept of rail travel is very attractive to environmental lobbyists and activist groups. Websites such as globalwarmingisreal.com feature recommendations to travel by train and many news groups also seem to be in support.

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