'Train bragging' on the rise as rail travel becomes more popular

'Train bragging' on the rise as rail travel becomes more popular
A Eurostar train at Brussels Midi station. Credit Belga / Jasper Jacobs

"Flight shaming" has been on the increase due to Covid and environmental reasons, as the emissions per person when travelling by plane are extremely high. Today, travellers choose not only to board trains as an alternative but to boast about using them too, leading to a new term being birthed: "train bragging".

Despite rising prices in many countries, train travel has become more popular in recent times, mainly due to the smaller ecological impact it has compared to other forms of transport. A train emits on average fifty times less CO2 compared to a car, according to calculations by the Belgian Ministry for the Environment. The ratio increases to 80 times less when compared to the plane.

If the term flight shaming can be traced back to Greta Thunberg’s refusal to board a plane to reach Madrid for the COP25 UN Climate Change Conference in 2019, train bragging can also be attributed to the young environmentalist’s home nation. Originating in Sweden, train bragging takes the act of taking the train as a more sustainable travel option a step further by adding boasting to the mix. Train braggers make it known, loudly and usually on social media, that they have made the choice to take the train in a bid to save the planet.

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Train use, and therefore train bragging, is likely to increase as more countries add new rail routes and resurrect old ones – like night train connections – and encourage travellers to use them. By the end of this year, Zurich should be connected to Rome via Milan by night train while a Paris-Berlin route is expected for December 2023 and a Barcelona-Zurich in December 2024. A recent study showed that at least ten new night train routes could open in Europe by 2023, helping to reduce the CO2 emissions of cross-border journeys by 95%.

The return of night trains would not be the only reason to boast of choosing the train to travel greener. Initiatives linked to cost are likely to attract more travellers. France has chosen to make free routes on board suburban trains and some medium-distance lines from 1 September until the end of the year. In Luxembourg, train travel has been free since February 2020, for both residents and foreigners, while in Germany, local and nationwide regional transport is accessible with a nine-euro ticket.

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