The revolution brought about by the advent of the low cost airline is the opportunity to escape to a multitude of destinations throughout Europe at competitive prices, for a weekend or business trip, with a large choice of airlines to choose from. Traditionally, these routes were accessible only by rail or car.
However, concerns over air pollution and increased security as a result of the September 11 attacks have hindered the industry. Environmental concerns, long queues and an increase in delays and cancellations have left passengers seeking for more viable and reliable alternatives.
Eurostar and large rail organizations in Germany, France, Holland, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium have combined to form Railteam. They propose to make rail travel more accessible and expect to attract 25 million passengers for international routes by 2010, ten million more than they have today.
Railteam estimates to receive five percent of passengers from low cost airlines. They aim to promote packages for business trips of up to four hours and leisure packages for trips up to six hours with Express trains.
As more and more passengers become concerned with the environmental implications of air travel, they turn to rail travel for short routes. According to rail analysts trains emit, on average, ten times less carbon dioxide than planes.
Eurostar claimed it has increased passenger traffic on the Brussels-Paris-London route by 39 perc ent and through the connection with the French rail network it aims to facilitate passenger access to the Alps and Mediterranean.
The Western Europe Express train network currently connects 100 cities and serves 120 million passengers with these regions, however, many passengers are unaware of the potential to use this network for international travel. To counter this Railteam has designs to create an online booking service to offer the same services as low cost airlines. For business travelers, a miles and bonus service will be provided and specific business class areas in train stations.