Forget flying around Europe. Take the train

For the eco-sensitive traveler, there is no excuse now for not taking the more environmentally friendly route through Europe, writes The Independent, among others. Rail companies are starting to advertise to the eco-conscious traveler as well. Who knew they cared so much about the environment, wink wink.

The truth is, Europe has been pumping a lot of money into upgrading its railways and encouraging people to take the train, rather than flying, especially if traveling only a short distance. With the budget airlines making it affordable, it is not uncommon for Europeans to fly from place to place even if it is only as little as 150 miles away because it is cheaper than taking the train.

Some of these new upgrades, however, might really make it better to take the train:

  • High-speed link between Madrid and Barcelona now only takes 2 and a half hours
  • The new east-west, Paris-toward the Rhine TGV route cruises at over 200mph and offers WI-Fi from Paris-Frankfurt
  • The new Lotschberg Base Tunnel through the Alps cuts an hour off the time of Basel-Milan trains

More upgrades, such as the long awaited Moscow-St. Petersburg fast train should be done next year.

France’s new AGV: and you thought the TGV was fast

Despite the many Frenchmen complaining about Sarkozy behaving more like a celebrity than President, he is still treated like a king at all of France’s important events. Tuesday February 5 was a classic example when a whole lot of pomp and circumstance went into the unveiling of Alstom engineering company’s new train, the AGV. In French that stands for automatrice à grande vitesse. Loosely translated: a really really fast train.

The TGV led to a lot of “oohs” and “ahs” last year when it broke the world speed record for a train. But going 574.8 km/hour was only a one time deal, passenger TGVs have a maximum rail speed of 320 km/h. The new AGV will up that to 360 km/h (224 miles/h) allowing passengers to do about 1000 km (600 miles) in three hours, getting one step closer to making train travel comparable to traveling by plane. The Alstom company is pretty proud of its production, comparing it to the Airbus A380 in terms of importance and innovation, probably on account of the fact that the train is more energy efficient than the TGV and has a larger passenger capacity.

The Italian operator NTV has already bought 25 trains and says it will have them running on Italy’s high speed tracks by 2011. Let the countdown begin.