A question often asked is whether it costs more to travel to the Alps by train? The answer might surprise you.

Two reasons people often give for continuing to fly and not travelling by train is that it will

1) cost more
2) take longer

But while it will typically take longer to take the train, it’s probably not as much as you think.

Train travel doesn’t cost more than flying…

…it certainly doesn’t in this example of a journey booked last week.

Ski Flight Free founder Iain Martin is travelling to Les Arcs in December to review the resort’s sustainability credentials.

The 100% electric funicular from Bourg to Les Arcs

Train to Les Arcs (10h36m, £259, 26 kgCO2)

Iain lives in Brighton, so his journey takes him from Brighton-London St Pancras-Paris-Chambéry-Bourg St Maurice.

He is leaving Brighton at 08:11 and will arrive in Bourg at 19:47. That’s 10 hours 36 minutes travelling time, with three changes (London/Paris/Chambéry).

Now let’s look at cost:

Brighton-London return                             £38
London-Paris return                                    £80
Paris-Bourg return                                       £141
Total Cost by train                                £259


Travel by Train

Flying to Les Arcs (8h30m, £357, 164 kgCO2)

For the purposes of comparison, we looked at the equivalent journey flying from London Gatwick (the closest airport to Brighton) with easyJet to Geneva.

We picked flights at reasonable hours, travelling with one checked luggage bag weighing up to 23kg. Hire car prices are based on the smallest car available.

Arriving 2 hours before the time of departure, taking the 14:00 flight, Iain would have had to leave Brighton at 11:30. We assumed the flight arrives on time, and it takes 90 minutes to get through customs, collect luggage, register and collect a hire car.

If the rush hour traffic isn’t too bad it’s likely to take 2 hours 30 minutes to drive to Bourg, giving an arrival time of 21:00.

That’s 8 hours and 30 minutes travelling time, with two changes (Gatwick/Geneva).

Now let’s look at cost:

Brighton-Gatwick return                                          £20
Gatwick-Geneva return                                            £100
Car Hire (Europcar)                                                  £172
Petrol/Peage costs                                                     £60
Total Cost by air                                                  £357

The carbon cost of the flight alone, excluding the UK trains would be 164 kg/CO2 – five times the emissions generated travelling by train.

Advantages of taking the train to the Alps

Evidently these prices and timings are based on a particular itinerary. However, based on these numbers why wouldn’t you travel by train?

  • It’s more than £100 cheaper to travel by train
  • Emissions are just 20% of the CO2 generated by flying

All it will cost you is two hours of your time.

And there are even more reasons to travel by train:

  • Trains are less likely to be delayed and they don’t get stuck on the tarmac
  • Trains don’t lose your luggage
  • You can get up and walk around on a train
  • You can look out the window and admire the views on a train
  • You can RELAX!

So, the next time you travel to the Alps, don’t dismiss travelling by train as either too expensive or taking too long, until you’ve checked.

The climate crisis is here and nobody is too small to make a difference: so why not Ski Flight Free this winter?

(c) Snowcarbon.co.uk