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Julie Cook Kitchener Apr 15, 2024 13:18 pm
Hi all,
I’m sure most of you are aware that changing flying behaviour is important for reaching global climate goals, and that one way to do that is to substitute flights with train travel. What you may not know (I didn’t) is that taking the same trip by train instead of by plane reduces CO2 emissions by 80-90%. That’s a significant decrease. I came across this statistic in a 2020 Transport and Research journal article that explains some of the most effective ways to shift people’s travel choices from high-carbon planes to low-carbon trains. 
According to the article, the best ways to make this shift are to raise the price of air travel and change social norms. With respect to the price of air travel, a significant portion of growth in air travel demand over the past couple of decades has been low-cost airlines. Carbon taxes on flight tickets could curb that demand, incentivizing travellers to choose lower cost options like train travel. When it comes to social norms, there appears to be some momentum around the “flying shame” movement in Europe. For example, the #flygskam social media tag has correlated with decreased flight passenger numbers in Sweden since 2017. Although it sounds negative, there is actually an emphasis within this movement on the joy of slow travel. Celebrities like Swedish singer Staffan Lindberg, biathlete Bjorn Ferry, and opera singer Malena Ernman—Greta Thunberg’s mom—have all joined in.
Of course, besides incentives/disincentives and social norms, there are other considerations that add to the complexity of shifting traveller behaviour. Travel time, flexibility, comfort, and safety are all factors that travellers think about when determining a preferred mode of travel. For air travellers, time sensitivity and comfort are of utmost importance. For those who choose train travel, cost, familiarity, and environmental sensitivity tend to be priorities. As you may know from your CBSM training, any behaviour change campaign aiming to shift travel modes in this way would need to examine benefits and barriers of these different demographics first before determining the best strategy. 
To learn more about how to encourage modal shifts from planes to trains, you can read the open access full article here