Ditch the plane, take the train is the new policy being pursued by European governments keen to polish up their eco-friendly credentials.
Once Covid restrictions are lifted and international borders reopen, the crackdown on short-haul flights will be of particular interest to travel agents whose clients are planning treks across Europe.
Instead of booking a cheap flight on Easyjet or Ryanair, agents will need to be familiar with train schedules from Bonn to Berlin, or Toulouse to Turin, and with the small Swiss steam trains.
As governments across Europe prepare to meet their greenhouse gas emission targets, France is just one of the countries eyeing restrictions on flights of less than two-and-a-half hours where alternative rail services exist.
Austria, which has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2040, last year banned flights of three hours where train travel is already possible.
Further, Austria wants to banish cheap flights altogether by imposing a heavy tax on flights which are less than 300 kilometres.
Nienke Geudeker, spokeswoman for Eurail in the Netherlands, said besides government driven initiatives, “there's also a bottom-up movement of travellers looking for sustainable travel alternatives and non-flight holidays”.
“Based on customer research, we have reasons to believe that sustainability is playing a key role in the popularity of train travel with new trends of ‘flight shaming’ and ‘train bragging’.”
She said there are signs of a revival of night trains across Europe, once a popular way for tourists to have more time in the day to explore cities by sleeping through the night.
“During the challenging Covid times, we prepared the ground for the restart of business after the pandemic,” Geudeker added.
“We launched a new centralised distribution system and a mobile solution of our products which enables more flexibility for the customer.”
She said an API solution provided by Eurail allows medium- to large-size distributors to automate the sales process of Eurail and Interrail Passes via Eurail’s distribution platform.
“We also developed a new version of the Eurail Ticketing System, allowing tour operators, ticket windows and retailers to issue mobile Eurail and Interrail Passes on the spot.”
Geudeker said Eurail is “ready to welcome back Asian travellers” allowing them for the first time to buy a digital pass, to download a dedicated Rail Planner app “and get access to the railway network of 33 European countries with just one Pass”.