I’ve heard several people say “Well, I would take the train, but it costs so much more than flying.”

However, while this may be true in certain circumstances my blog post last month showed that it’s certainly not always the case.

In that case, I looked at the equivalent cost of travelling to Les Arcs on the same dates in December that I had booked the train for. In that instance, it turned out to be £100 cheaper going by train, compared with flying to Geneva and hiring a car. It was longer (although only by two hours).

Travelling by train generated only 20% of the CO2 emissions that flying would have.

I have just booked my second trip to the Alps by train, so let’s go through the process again:

Is train travel more expensive than flying?

This example is based travelling to Courchevel in January 2020. I’m taking part in the Roc Merlet Derby and writing about it for Fall Line Magazine.

The Roc Merlet Derby, Courchevel

Train to Moutiers (10h30m, £262, 26 kgCO2)

I live in Brighton, so this journey takes me from Brighton-London St Pancras-Paris-Moutiers-Courchevel.

I booked this direct with Eurostar and SNCF on their websites.

I’m leaving Brighton at 08:30 and arriving in Moutiers 19:12. That’s 9 hours 42 minutes travelling time, with three changes (London/Paris/Chambéry). Let’s add on another 48 minutes to get up to Courchevel 1650 from there (it could be more or less, depending how long you have to wait for a transfer).

Now let’s look at cost:

Brighton-London return                             £38
London-Paris return                                    £78
Paris-Moutiers return                                  £124
Moutiers-Courchevel return (bus)             £22
Total Cost by train                                £262

Note: I am a guest of the Tourist Office for this trip, so they are providing me with a transfer from Moutiers, which is very kind of them. For the purposes of a fair comparison, I’ve included the price for a local bus transfer from Moutiers to Courchevel.


Travel by Train

Flying to Courchevel (8h30m, £488, 164 kgCO2)

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

I chose flights at reasonable hours (the same flights that I took on an equivalent trip to Courchevel last winter), 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, I would have to leave Brighton at 11:30. For timings, I have 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 (and it can be a bit messy getting out of Geneva at that time), and I don’t have to stop to put snow chains on, it’s likely to take 2 hour 20 minutes to drive to Courchevel, 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                                          £25
Gatwick-Geneva return                                            £220
Car Hire (via easyJet                                                 £193
Petrol/Peage costs                                                     £50
Total Cost by air                                                  £488


What’s the carbon cost of flying?

The carbon cost of the flight alone, excluding the UK trains would be 162 kg/CO2 – six times the emissions generated travelling by train.

Advantages of taking the train to the Alps

These prices and timings are based on my specific requirements, with just one person in my hire car. You could book a private transfer, but it would cost about the same as hiring a car. Only if there were four of you sharing the cost of the hire car, would it become cheaper to fly.

So, based on these numbers why wouldn’t you travel by train?

  • It’s over £200 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 you’ll have more money in your pocket!

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.

Nobody is too small to make a difference: so why not Ski Flight Free this winter?

(c) SnowCarbon.co.uk