5 reasons why rail is the best way to travel (and a few reasons why it’s not)

5 reasons why rail is the best way to travel (and a few reasons why it’s not)

When it comes to deciding how to travel there are numerous modes to choose from such as car, bus, rideshare, and even micromobility. But what about the good old train? It has been a solid means of transportation since the 1800s, connecting people and places. Over the years, the development of trams, subways, and high-speed bullet trains has further expanded this mode of travel.

As National Train Day approaches on Saturday 13th May 2023, it’s an opportune time to reflect on the importance of this invaluable means of transportation. After all, rail travel has served populations worldwide for decades and continues to offer significant benefits that other modes simply can’t match. Keep reading for five reasons to choose rail.

1. More convenient

Many train stations are located in the heart of cities and towns, making it easier for passengers to access their destinations without having to worry about other onward transportation. Additionally, when using journey planning apps users can plan, book and pay for their complete journey without having to queue up for tickets or search online for the most convenient times and routes; it’s all done automatically, leaving travellers to sit back and enjoy their trip.

Interesting fact: Which European country travels by train the most? Switzerland. Over the course of a year, the average travel distance by rail was more than 1,539 kilometres per person. (Austria was second, with an average of 832 kilometres).

2. Greater comfort

Rail can be a comfortable way to travel, offering passengers the freedom to move around and get up and stretch their legs. Trains also have the added benefit of amenities such as power outlets and wifi, dining cars, sleeping cabins, and lounges, which make long journeys more enjoyable. Coupled with this, passengers can take large items of luggage with them without incurring extra fees, unlike air travel. And with modern trains much quieter than traditional locomotives, this mode of transport can make for a more pleasant journey all-round.

Interesting fact: ”In 2022, half of the ten best railway stations in Europe were located in Germany. Based on passenger experience, the best train station in Europe was the central station of Zürich, Switzerland…[with] the Gare de Lyon in Paris, France ranked third.”

3. Better for the environment

Taking the train is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and make a positive impact on the environment. According to the International Energy Agency, trains emit significantly fewer emissions per passenger than flights – about one-sixth fewer emissions to be precise. Add in electrified passenger rail, particularly from renewables, and the emissions are even lower.

With SkedGo’s MaaS platform, it’s also easy to view CO2 emissions for each part of a journey, helping to increase awareness and encourage more sustainable transport choices. Users can create multi/mixed modal journeys to support the first/last mile, with micro-mobility, cycle routes and footpaths providing excellent options alongside rail.

4. Increased efficiency

Rail is fast and efficient. Trains can travel at speeds of up to 250 kilometres per hour, making them one of the fastest modes of transportation, without sacrificing safety. They’re particularly a good option for longer journeys, getting passengers to their destination quicker than taking the private car (and avoiding them arriving frazzled and stressed).

Furthermore, because rail networks are extensive and well-connected, it’s often fairly easy to travel between cities. Tools like journey planners can also help if there should be any last-minute delays or changes to a trip. Users can be notified in-app with the option to reroute or take alternative modes where possible, all in a matter of seconds.

Interesting fact: In 2020, there were 378bn kilometres of passenger rail traffic in Europe and over two-and-a-half trillion passenger kilometres worldwide. Europe represented the second-largest market, with Europeans travelling around 16 times more than their American and African counterparts.

5. A safer option

Rail travel is one of the safest modes of transportation, according to the European Transport Safety Council, with the lowest fatality risk per passenger kilometre. Thankfully, the overall trend in rail accidents in Europe has declined over the course of a decade. Eurostat states that, “Since 2010, the number of significant railway accidents has gradually decreased, with 840 fewer accidents in 2021 than in 2010 (-38%).”

Overall, modern trains are designed to be sturdy and durable, with a focus on investment in safety measures such as high-tech signalling systems, advanced braking technology, and regular maintenance programmes. The European Green Deal includes €87.5 bn investment in rail infrastructure, with the US Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allocating $66bn to modernise rail tracks and implement safety improvements, emphasising the importance of rail as a transport mode.

The challenges of rail

Of course, it’s not all rose-tinted glasses when it comes to travelling by train. There are certainly plenty of challenges. Much depends on the country, region and transport operator as to the quality of the services provided. Here are a few issues that often cause widespread concern – accessibility, reliability and cost.

Inaccessible services

Travellers with limited mobility, neurodiverse individuals, the elderly and people with families can face major challenges accessing or navigating train stations. Whether it’s the lack of ramps, lifts out-of-use, overcrowding on carriages, or difficulties using onboard facilities, it leaves many people not able to enjoy the benefits that rail has to offer. As a result, people may be unable to commute to work, access education, socialise or just generally participate in everyday life. This can have a significant impact on individual wellbeing and economic opportunities – an issue SkedGo has raised many times before. You can read more about inclusive mobility on our blog.

Poor reliability

In Europe, Norway, Lithuania and the UK have the worst record in terms of reliability according to Statistica, with 4.34%, 4.16% and 4% trains cancelled respectively. Cancellations and schedule delays can prove highly inconvenient and frustrating whether it’s down to weather conditions, track maintenance, technical problems or other issues. This lack of reliability needs to be taken into account when planning travel, particularly if timing is of the essence. What often makes these problems worse is poor customer care, leaving passengers in the dark as to when – or if – their train will arrive.

Cost prohibitive

The price of train fares varies quite a lot from country to country. Euronews highlighted that the UK was the most expensive for single fares purchased on the day of the journey. Norway, Austria, France and the Netherlands were the next most expensive countries. It cited Latvia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia as the cheapest countries with Germany also offering reasonably priced tickets. Despite the benefits of travelling by rail, many individuals and families simply can’t afford this mode of transportation. While there can be some reductions for off-peak and advanced bookings, such as in the UK, it can be frustrating to have to search out these better deals.

The backbone of transportation

Are trains the backbone of transportation?

Despite these shortcomings, rail deserves attention. If anything it serves to remind authorities of the need to champion train travel and focus investment on areas of long-term positive impact. Rail is, after all, the backbone of transportation systems worldwide, connecting people and cities and avoiding private car use and traffic congestion. So, this National Train Day, let’s take a moment to recognise the importance of rail travel, and why it remains a popular choice for travellers around the world. From escaping city life to an unforgettable adventure, experiencing the world by train can not only be a pleasurable experience but a more sustainable one too.

Do you work in the public transport sector? Then get in touch with our team to see how we can streamline the journey process for passengers, from trip planning to booking and payments.

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