France has been given the green light to ban short-haul domestic flights. Especially between locations where there is a train alternative that takes less than 2.5 hours.
When the French government proposed the measure in 2021 as part of the country’s climate law, it was contested by the Union of French Airports (UAF) and the European branch of Airports Council International (ACI Europe).
This led to an investigation by the European Commission final approval on Friday – making France the first EU member state to ban short-haul flights.
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Initially, the measure will affect the routes between Paris Orly airport and Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux. It is valid for three years, after which it is reassessed by the Commission.
France’s flight ban is an important step for Europe.
Unlike many other parts of the world, Europe already has thousands of kilometers of dedicated high-speed rail, with the leading countries in this regard being France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Poland and the UK.
This will allow the continent to increase its rail use, as part of that of the EU Only 55 plan to reduce CO2 emissions from transport, including by reducing dependence on aviation.
According to the European Railway Community (CER) rail transport accounts for less than 1% of EU transport emissions thanks to its already high levels of efficiency and electrification.
In addition, it is also one of the most energy-efficient modes of transport, accounting for only 2% of the Union’s total energy consumption in transport, while transporting 13% of goods and 7% of passengers.
CE too estimates that a future trans-European network of high-speed trains (with 200 km/h) would significantly reduce journey times, thereby further encouraging the transfer of passengers to this mode of transport.
For example, passengers could travel between Amsterdam and Berlin in 3 hours and 17 minutes and between London and Brussels in 1 hour and 56 minutes.
A number of ongoing projects indicate that things are moving in the right direction. Germany has suggested the revival of the Trans Europe Express, with the aim of offering fast connections to other European countries by 2030.
Czech Republic too to collaborate with the French railway industry to create new 350 km/h lines that will reduce travel times between Prague, Brno and Ostrava with East Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland.
Meanwhile, the Dutch Railway Company NS has revealed a faster 200 km/h Intercity train that could cut 30 minutes from the Amsterdam to Brussels route from 2024 — currently taking 2 hours and 52 minutes.
Hopefully, more countries will follow this example, allowing Europeans to choose cleaner and more sustainable travel without wasting time. If something like this can be achieved, startups, companies and people across the continent will all benefit.