VLM says it is a myth that short-haul flights are more environmentally damaging than rail journeys
VLM Airlines' 'Green Machine'
Fri 3 Oct 2008 – Belgian regional carrier VLM Airlines has waded into the train versus plane debate by publishing a ‘fact sheet’, entitled Setting the Record Straight, which aims to disprove claims that flying within the UK and on short-haul flights to Europe is more damaging to the environment than taking the train on the same routes. VLM argues that train operators and their supporters are not taking into account the true environmental impact of rail services.
The airline says there is a hidden energy burden that they are ignoring such as the carbon footprint of the power generation for their services, the huge loss of power during transmission and the “massive” environmental footprint of constructing, updating and operating railway lines.
VLM cites statistics produced by Sustainable Aviation Network Europe (SANE) that show if these factors were taken into account the average CO2 emissions for a regional aircraft flight is 95 grams of CO2 per passenger kilometre. The figure for a car with two passengers is 135 grams of CO2 per passenger kilometre and for a high-speed train it is 155 grams, 63% higher than that of the aircraft.
“While the future of the environment is of utmost concern to all of us, we are alarmed by the growing perception that flying is dirty and rail is green – particularly as it is often untrue,” said Johan Vanneste, Managing Director of VLM Airlines, when launching the document at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Centre for Air Transport and the Environment.
“Packaged as an environmental measure, the [UK] Government is now planning an unfair tax on aviation that does not take into account the different aircraft types being operated. Nor does it consider that it is often greener to fly on domestic services than to travel on a heavily subsidised rail network.”
VLM operates Fokker 50 turboprop aircraft on services within the UK and Northern Europe. It has just unveiled a ‘Green Machine’ liveried aircraft (see photo) that will fly on services into London City and Manchester airports.
According to figures from cross-Channel high-speed rail operator Eurostar, an average return short-haul flight between London’s Heathrow and Paris emits 168g of CO2 per passenger km, compared with 11g of CO2 per passenger km on a return Eurostar rail journey between the two capitals.Eurostar has also committed to reducing its CO2 emissions by 25% by 2012 compared with 2006.