ACI Europe

ACI Europe: New study confirms CO2 reduction benefits of shifting short-haul flights to rail are limited

  • While a direct comparison of current emissions shows that rail has lower CO2 emissions per passenger kilometre than air travel, the CO2 benefits of shifting short-haul flights to rail are limited and generate other environmental as well as social and economic costs. 
  • Multiple factors need to be considered when assessing the optimal policy for short-haul aviation in Europe. Flights under 500km represent 1–2% of total EU aviation emissions. Mandatory shifts from air to rail is not a silver bullet for curbing emissions.  They would also compromise the ability of short-haul aviation to be the testbed for aviation decarbonisation. 
  • Aviation associations call for greater balance and factual accuracy in the debate around the intermodality of sustainable transport. All transport modes have their role to play; it’s not about aviation or rail, but aviation and rail

With an increase in global decarbonisation targets, transportation has come under increased scrutiny, and in particular aviation. One solution that has been proposed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport is a modal shift from air to rail. This has already been encouraged both through massive investment in rail infrastructure and by bans and taxes on short-haul flights in certain countries, with potentially more to follow.   

However, a new study commissioned by European aviation associations and carried out by economics and finance consultancy Oxera, confirms that the extent to which rail travel can substitute for air travel is limited.  

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