Trains in Europe

15 European Train Routes that Save Time and the Planet

Find out exactly how much more environmentally friendly taking the train can be

Flying is often considered the fastest way to travel in Europe; however, this isn't always the case. To celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd, GoEuro has crunched the numbers on some popular routes in Europe and found 15 where taking the train is both faster and more environmentally friendly than flying. On top of this, train travel is often a far more enjoyable experience, offering an opportunity to see more of Europe's natural beauty. GoEuro compared the environmental impact of traveling these 15 routes in terms of both CO₂ emissions and amount of energy saved by taking the train instead of flying.

GoEuro’s calculation of flight travel times includes travel time from the city center to the airport and back using public transport, the check-in times recommended for each airport, and the duration of the flight itself. Ecopassenger then took the routes that were provided by GoEuro and compared the average environmental load factor and emission output of traveling by train with flying the same route on plane typical for flights in Europe. This analysis of the environmental impact of traveling by train versus plane assumes an average passenger capacity for both trains and planes traveling each route and measures and the CO₂ emitted and energy used per trip. We then subtracted the environmental impact of traveling by train from flying to determine exactly how much better traveling by train is for the environment.

Interestingly, taking the train from London to Paris was found to have significantly less impact on the environment while taking nearly the same amount of time as flying, saving 106.3 kg in Carbon dioxide emissions per trip.

earth-test

Download the full GoEuro Earth Day study
¹ Liter gasoline energy equivalent and energy consumed in the production and distribution of electricity/fuel
Source: Gasoline consumption and Carbon dioxide emission statistics are taken from Ecopassenger
Travel times for trains and flights were taken and compared from GoEuro data on 26/04/2017

Trains in Europe

Europe’s excellent rail infrastructure has made train travel one of the most popular transportation modes throughout the continent. Train travel in Europe is very convenient not only for quick jaunts to nearby cities but also for longer-distance international journeys. Most major cities in Europe are connected by high-speed train routes. From popular destinations and travel itineraries to information about train companies and how to buy cheap train tickets, this page provides an overview of everything you need to know about trains in Europe. If you are planning on taking multiple train trips you can also select a Eurail pass which offers a variety of European train travel options.



Train Companies in Europe

Everything you need to know about European Train Travel

Taking the train is a great alternative to flying in Europe: seats are generally spacious and comfortable, boarding avoids the long waits at airport security, and it lets you view the picturesque landscapes of the regions you travel through - from the snow-tipped Swiss Alps to the rolling green hills of Spain’s Basque Country. Additionally, most main train stations in Europe are located in the city center, saving you potentially expensive cab rides to and from the airport.

Train service, speed, and prices vary considerably depending on country; Western Europe tends to operate more modern, high-speed trains, while Eastern European trains can be less frequent but also tend to have far cheaper ticket prices. Train ticket prices can fluctuate considerably, so it’s best to book your train tickets as far in advance as possible.


Austria | Belgium | Czech Republic | France | Germany | Italy | Netherlands | Spain | Switzerland | United Kingdom


Austria: ÖBB and Westbahn

ÖBB: ÖBB or Austrian Federal Railways is Austria's national train company. In addition to numerous cities in Austria, ÖBB also travels to select destinations in Germany, Hungary, Italy, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.
Westbahn: Westbahn operates one train route between Vienna and Salzburg. Westbahn trains run every hour and stop at Wien Westbahnhof, Wien-Hütteldorf, St. Pölten Hbf, Amstetten, Linz Hbf, Wels Hbf, Attnang-Puchheim and Salzburg Hbf.

Belgium: SNCB

SNCB: In addition to servicing domestic destinations, Belgium's national train company also operates 4 high-speed international train routes: from Brussels to Paris Nord or Lille Flandres train stations in cooperation with SNCF; from Leuven to Ans; from Liège to the German border; and from Antwerpen-Centraal to Rotterdam Centraal train stations.

Czech Republic: České Dráhy

České Dráhy: Often abbreviated ČD, České Dráhy is the Czech Republic's main train company. České Dráhy operates both regional and long-distance train routes throughout the Czech Republic.

France: SNCF

SNCF: SNCF operates all of France's national rail services including the high-speed TGV network. More than 800 high-speed SNCF trains depart every day. SNCF’s TGV trains carry over 100 million passengers every year.

Germany: Deutsche Bahn

Deutsche Bahn: Germany's national train company is the largest in Europe, transporting approximately 2 billion passengers per year. Deutsche Bahn's high-speed Intercity-Express (ICE) trains connect major cities in Germany as well as some select international destinations in Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, France, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Italy: Trenitalia and Italo

Trenitalia: Owned by the Italian government, Trenitalia is Italy's main train company. Trenitalia offers both regional and long-distance routes as well as international connections to select destinations in France, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
Italo: Italo is a privately-owned high-speed train company that connects 16 train stations in 13 Italian cities. Italo operates 3 high-high speed train lines through Italy: from Verona to Naples (via Bologna, Florence, and Rome); from Venice to Salerno (via Padua, Bologna, Florence, Rome, and Naples); and from Turin to Salerno (via Milan, Reggio Emilia, Bologna, Florence, Rome, and Naples).

The Netherlands: NS

NS: Nederlandse Spoorwegen or NS is the main train company in the Netherlands. NS runs 4,800 domestic trains in the Netherlands every day, serving approximately 1.1 million passengers.

Spain: Renfe

Renfe: Renfe Operadora is Spain's national train company. Renfe's high-speed AVE trains travel up to 350 km/h and connect Madrid with other major cities in Spain including Seville, Barcelona, Valencia, Toledo, Cordoba, and Malaga.

Switzerland: SBB

SBB: Swiss Federal Railways (or SBB) is Switzerland's national rail company and operates the majority of national and international train traffic. SBB also operates international EuroCity and EuroNight trains in Switzerland.

The United Kingdom

Abellio Greater Anglia: Abellio Greater Anglia Trains succeeded National Express in 2012 as Eastern England's primary train company. Abellio's train network covers Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire and parts of Hertfordshire.
Arriva Trains Wales: Arriva trains operate on 5 routes: between the Midlands and Northern Wales, between South Wales and Northern Wales/Manchester, along the South Wales Coast Line to Cardiff and Swansea, along the North Wales Coast Line to Crewe and Manchester, while also operating a network of commuter train lines in and around Cardiff.
C2C: c2c is predominantly a London commuter railway, providing services along the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway line, from London Fenchurch Street to East London and along the southern part of Essex. Trains depart along the main route from Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness around 8 times each hour during off-peak times.
East Coast: Virgin Trains East Coast operates passenger trains on the UK's East Coast Mainline. East Coast runs trains between Scotland, the North East of the UK, Yorkshire, and London. East Coast's high-speed trains have been running since March 1st 2015.
East Midlands Trains: East Midlands Trains operates two types of trains: long-distance trains connecting London St Pancras train station with destinations throughout the UK and regional trains. East Midlands's regional trains link towns and cities in the East Midlands as well as Central and Northern England. East Midlands trains run between London and Sheffield, York, Derby, Corby, Nottingham, and Leeds.
First Great Western: Great Western Railway is the main train company for the west and south-west counties in the UK including Devon, Somerset, Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Bedfordshire, Wiltshire, and Bristol. Great Western's trains are also available in Wales, focusing specifically on Southern Wales.
First Hull Trains: First Hull Trains operate just one train from Hull to London, which stops at Brough, Howden, Selby, Doncaster, Retford, Grantham, and Stevenage along the way. First Hull's train schedule has grown every year since 2000, with 7 trains currently departing every day.
First Transpennine Express: First Transpennine Express operates intercity trains on 3 main routes across Northern England. First Transpennine Express trains connect Liverpool and Manchester with Leeds, York, Sheffield and Doncaster with as many as 5 trains departing per hour on some of the popular routes.
Merseyrail: Merseyrail operates trains throughout Liverpool, the surrounding area, and the rest of Merseyside. Over 100,000 passengers utilize Merseyrail's network every week with pproximately 800 trains departing every day.
Northern Rail: Northern Rail operates most trains in Northern England between Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield.
Scotrail: Scotrail runs trains throughout Northern England connecting Newcastle and Carlisle with London. The vast majority of Scaotrail trains run between major Scottish cities like Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen and Dundee.
Southern: Southern trains run between London, East and West Sussex, Surrey, Kent, and Hampshire. Popular destinations include Hastings, Lewes, and Southampton. Southern also manages the Gatwick Express which is a 30 minute, non-stop train between London Victoria station and Gatwick International Airport.
South West Trains: South West Trains operates the majority of commuter trains from London Waterloo station to destinations in South West London. Most trains run on an electrified third rail, with diesel engine trains on the West of England line to Salisbury, Exeter, and Bristol.
Virgin Trains: Virgin Trains operates long-distance trains on the West Coast Main Line between Greater London, the West Midlands, North West England, North Wales and Scotland. Virgin Trains connects London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow.


International Trains in Europe

International train routes in Europe are often offered via co-operation between two or more national rail companies.

Eurostar: Journeys from London to other prominent French or Belgian cities will always involve a Eurostar train via the Chunnel under the English Channel. Eurostar trains run between London and Paris, Lille, Lyon, or Brussels. Traveling by the Eurostar from London to Paris or Brussels takes approximately two and half hours.
Thalys: Founded as a partnership between SNCF, SNCB, and Deutsche Bahn in May 1995, Thalys links major cities in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands by international high-speed train. Thalys trains link Paris, Brussels, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Liège, Aachen and Cologne.
Lyria: TGV Lyria trains, a partnership between SBB and SNCF, transports more than 4 million travelers per year between France and Switzerland. TGV Lyria operates 6 train routes: between Geneva and Lille, between Geneva and Nice (via Marseille), between Lausanne and Paris (via Geneva), between Lausanne and Paris (via Dijon), between Interlaken and Paris (via Bern, Basel, and Dijon), and between Zurich and Paris (via Basel and Mulhouse).
Thello: Created in 2010 via cooperative agreement between Trenitalia and SNCF, Thello trains link major cities in France with cities in Northern Italy. Thello trains travel to many of the cities on France's Côte d'Azur. Thello offers night trains between Paris Gare de Lyon and Venezia Santa Lucia railway station, which stop at Dijon-Ville, Milano Centrale, Brescia, Verona Porta Nuova, Vicenza and Padova along the way. Daytime trains between Milan and Marseille (via Genoa and Nice) are also operated by Thello.

Deutsche Bahn and Renfe also offer international train routes into countries bordering Germany and Spain.

Facilities & Services for Major Train Companies

Many companies operate modern fleets with comfortable, reclining seats, wifi and air-conditioning. Compare the services available.

Further facilities and services may vary according to the transport company and country of operation. For more detailed information about providers, please refer to our comprehensive list of luggage restrictions.

Information about Popular Train Routes in Europe

The United Kingdom introduced train travel to Europe in the wake of the industrial revolution in the early 19th century. This revolution in transportation was followed by BeNeLux, France, Germany, Italy and Spain adding numerous train routes across Europe. Seeing as train innovation tends to begin in Europe and filter out to the rest of the world, it is no surprise that Europe is home to numerous high speed rail routes.

 

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