Sweden/Norway

Blame the Plane, Take a Train

In northern Europe sustainability is on the right track

It’s called “flygskam” and it literally means flight shame. An environmental movement created in Stockholm in 2019 (one of the founders is Malena Ernman, mezzosoprano and mother of Greta Thunberg), it promotes a total boycott of plane travel, which is responsible for between 2 and 3% of all CO2 emissions into the atmosphere and 12% of emissions resulting from transportation.

The main alternative is the dear old train, which is now experiencing a remarkable revival. So much so that, according to WWF, in 2019 in Sweden 23% of the population gave up air travel; the country’s main airports have seen a drop in passenger numbers of 8%, while the state railways have recorded an increase of the same amount in traveller numbers on national routes. In nearby Norway, where the geography makes it almost impossible to completely renounce air travel, the increase in passenger numbers on trains has nonetheless averaged around 3%.

Both the Swedish and Norwegian railways have ambitious development plans, above all concerning the number of night trains. The Swedish state railway is also targeting the international connections, investing more than one billion euros in the Copenhagen to Hamburg line.

And while “flight shame” is transforming exotic long haul holidays into a taboo, a new phenomenon has emerged: “trainbragging” means boasting about having travelled long distances by train.

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