Sustainable Mobility: How Can We Get More People On Board With Train Travel?


Europe is racing to reach net zero targets and enabling consumers to make more sustainable travel choices is a key piece of achieving this goal.

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Trainline, the European online rail and coach booking service, has helped kick off I Came By Train – a new cross-industry initiative to support people in making travel choices that are better for them and the environment we share, like swapping one car or plane journey to train. To help scale and supercharge this, we at GlobeScan helped write a White Paper to explore people’s transport needs, the under-appreciated strengths of rail today, and most importantly what the industry can do next.

The paper draws on findings from Trainline’s Pride in Rail Tracker Research, conducted by GlobeScan, surveying a nationally representative sample of 2,500 UK adults online in April 2022 and December 2022, exploring attitudes towards and appetite for rail travel. It also incorporates views from a wide range of experts from the travel and transport industries, and data from Trainline’s innovative Reasonable by Rail database identifying routes that are faster and/or cheaper by rail than by car or plane.

People are yet to realise just how much our choices matter

Transport is the largest contributor of UK greenhouse gas emissions at 24% of the total. However, consumers in the UK struggle to understand that adjusting our travel habits, such as living without a car or taking one less flight, are amongst the most impactful changes we can make to reduce our carbon footprint. Instead, two thirds (66%) believe the other actions, that perhaps are easier or more talked about, like recycling or turning off light switches, are more impactful.

There is appetite for rail, but consumers need support to break down barriers

There is already appetite for rail travel among the UK general public, with 43% saying they already chose rail over car or plane to reduce their carbon footprint at least once over the last 12 months. Meanwhile, almost one in five (19%) have considered switching but not done it yet, and just under two in five (38%) have not considered switching to train at all.

While there are huge environmental benefits to helping more people transition to rail travel, as rail emits between 70-86% less CO2 than cars and planes, experts highlight that a lack of knowledge of these benefits, as well as price and speed remain important barriers.

To tackle these barriers, Trainline developed an innovative Reasonable by Rail database, comparing speed and cost of train vs car and plane to highlight how many trips are already cheaper, faster and better for the planet. That way, the industry can help celebrate great routes, change perceptions and help people see that rail is a better choice for them, not just an environmental choice. Data from analysing more than 65,000 possible UK routes shows that 64% are faster and/or cheaper by train than by car with a railcard, and 40% are faster and/or cheaper without a railcard. Additionally, 75% of train routes are faster and/or cheaper than driving, even without a railcard, when booking the cheapest available tickets.

How collective action can build pride in rail and boost sustainable travel

The White Paper is a call to action for fellow industry peers, government and tech companies to join a sustainability working group and help explore solutions that encourage people to regularly opt for rail over car or plane. As a starting point, it showcases a selection of ‘hero’ rail routes that are significantly faster and/or cheaper than traveling by car and plane. It also draws on insights from leading industry experts and successful initiatives from Europe, suggesting new ideas like a ‘green railcard’ that would make travel more affordable, paid for by increased volumes of travel.

Read the full White Paper here to find out more about consumer needs, barriers and opportunities in encouraging behaviour change, plus how to get involved if you want to support this change and join the sustainability working group.

If you have any queries about the research that informs the White Paper, or this raises questions for your work and the change you are looking to create, please email