Flight Free UK blog – “Train travel is a gem waiting for rediscovery”

People are signing up to the Flight Free UK website in good numbers. The campaign is asking people to commit to not fly at all in 2020. Many who have pledged not to fly have done blogs, about their experience. Now environmental scientist Alexandra Jellicoe report on her recent trip to Italy, by train. She loved the space in the train, the pull-down table for her laptop, the ability to walk down the train to the restaurant for a meal or snack. Alexandra worked out that her train trip probably cause the emission of about 480kg CO2 than if she had flown. By train, or even by road, you are reconnected with the place and the culture through which you are moving. You appreciate the huge distance travelled. You can stop off at places en route, for a few hours or a night, pleasantly and interestingly extending your holiday. Alexandra says: “I’ve completely reimagined how to explore the world. A holiday is no longer a jet to Mexico to lie by the beach for a week nor a quick weekend in Rome. I’ve rediscovered travel as something to be savoured rather than an inconvenience between home and holiday…. and a compulsion to discover new ways to live in a world so damaged by modern lifestyles. …Choosing NOT to fly has a powerful impact.”



Train travel is a gem waiting for rediscovery

By Alexandra Jellicoe

For Flight Free UK blog

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Slow travel makes the whole experience far richer, as discovered by environmental scientist Alexandra Jellicoe on a recent trip to Italy.

It’s not often you get bumped up to first class for a tenner. I can’t believe my luck. The seats are like armchairs and pivot so you can recline into a perfect sleeping position. The pull-down table so generous I have plenty of space for my laptop, a coffee and a sandwich without having to channel my ninja skills, ready to catch a falling object at any moment. I managed to book last minute and the cabin is almost empty, the temperature perfectly controlled to ensure maximum comfort and I can stroll next door anytime I like for a hot meal. Oh, and did I mention the view? Train travel around Europe is a gem waiting for rediscovery.

I’ve been on a retreat at Villa Lugara near Baiso, Italy. I don’t envy my holiday mates on their return home, flying Ryan Air from Bologna to Bristol. Squished in like cattle, made to wait for two hours on the hot tarmac without explanation of the delay and refused free water. Modern air travel has been perversely designed to be endured rather than enjoyed. Tell me, when did you last enjoy a flight?

Perhaps this is the right time to mention that Ryan Air has recently joined the fossil fuel crew as one of the top ten most polluting companies on the planet. The latest research reveals that it’s not only carbon emissions are causing global heating: contrails left by aeroplanes are now so wide spread that their warming effect is greater than that of all the carbon dioxide emitted by aeroplanes that has accumulated in the atmosphere since the first flight of the Wright brothers. My choice to travel by train rather than fly has saved 480kg Co2 from the atmosphere. Currently, there are over 100,000 flights around the world every single day which melts Arctic ice the equivalent size to approximately thirty-seven Empire State buildings. Choosing NOT to fly has a powerful impact.

Slow travel is set to make a comeback. Travel that reconnects you with place and culture. If I didn’t have to whizz back to the UK to be with my young children, I would have stopped a day or two in all the places I’ve had to catch connecting trains – Paris, Turin, Milan, Bologna. Lingering to imbibe each cities’ culture, welcoming uncertainty as I navigate my way through unmapped streets and stumble over half understood conversations. Each city entices me to stay longer. This is not a holiday, this is akin to being the protagonist of a Hemmingway novel.

The booking engine LOCO2 offer a simple Europe-wide city to city search of alternative travel routes including overnight sleepers (expensive), high speed day trains (cheap) and every alternative you can think of in-between.

Trains are the lowest carbon emission form of easily accessible public transport. As a passionate traveller, mother and environmental scientist I’ve completely reimagined how to explore the world. A holiday is no longer a jet to Mexico to lie by the beach for a week nor a quick weekend in Rome. I’ve rediscovered travel as something to be savoured rather than an inconvenience between home and holiday. And this excitement has been triggered by a compulsion to discover new ways to live in a world so damaged by modern lifestyles.

Reduction in carbon emissions is critical to reduce global heating and whilst air travel may always be with us, it can no longer be the default mode of international transport. In order to prevent global heating in excess of 1.5 degrees we need Government action now, but we also need to reimagine our lifestyles. For many, modern travel lacks soul and adventure – jetting around the world in search of sun without engaging with the local people and culture deprives not only the traveller but also the destination community. The trend is economically non-specific and all are affected from the package holiday tourist to residents of vast complex five-star hotels. Slow travel immerses you in local culture and all are enriched.

I have to cross Paris from the Gare du Lyon to the Gare du Nord to catch my connecting train to London. Europe is experiencing a freak heatwave. I step down from the TGV and the 45-degree heat brings back memories of working in Sub-Saharan Africa. This oppressive weather makes it impossible to think and the city isn’t designed to withstand desert temperatures. As an environmental scientist my expertise is the provision of safe water to remote global communities. I’ve worked with indigenous tribes and small island developing states, both of which have been battling the consequences of climate change for decades. Yet little has been done to protect these vulnerable communities. Many have lost their homes and become aid dependent. As the consequences of unpredictable weather systems now threaten my own children, I feel that it is my duty to dedicate my life to protecting them – I may make little difference but I’m essentially an optimist, and hope is catching.

This summer we’re spending a month in France. We’ll take the kids by train, stop off in Paris, Lyon and Annecy. My eldest is always questioning the difference in local customs to ours and it’s this breadth of understanding and enquiry that I hope to inspire in all of my children. Travel, real travel, promotes empathy, compassion and tolerance of others, emotions that are severely under threat in modern society. If we’re lucky we may even pick up a little of the language too.

Alexandra Jellicoe runs environmental magazine/blog Monkey Wrench, where you can read an expanded version of this article.


Fight Free UK


Do you feel powerless taking action as an individual? Would you feel differently if you knew many others were taking the same action?

Flight Free UK is a people-powered campaign which asks people to agree not to fly in the year of 2020 – knowing that 100,000 others have pledged to do the same. It’s about taking collective responsibility to reduce the amount we fly in order to lessen our impact on the planet.

Flying less is one of the most powerful ways we as individuals can reduce our carbon footprint, and with experts predicting that we have just a handful of years to take meaningful action on climate change, there has never been a better time to address the issue.

Many of us fly without a second thought – it is an ingrained part of our culture, and a part of our global society, as people, goods and services are transported around the globe. Flight Free UK aims to raise awareness of the impact of those flights and inspire people to take action.

It is easy to think that individual actions don’t make a difference, and not to bother trying. But if we can show that there are 100,000 people who are prepared to take an air-free year, we send a clear signal to industry and politicians – and also to each other – that there are many who are willing to change their lifestyles to protect the climate.


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Sign the pledge and join the growing number of people who will be flight-free in 2020. 

Make the pledge to be flight-free in 2020


When you sign up your name will automatically be counted towards the total signatories.* Your email address will be added to our mailing list where you’ll receive one email per month updating you on the campaign. You may unsubscribe at any time, but we’ll still hold your data otherwise your pledge won’t be counted. For information on how we use your data, please see our Privacy Policy.

*For your signature to count towards the 100,000, you must be a UK resident. If you select a different country your pledge will be held on the database as an international pledge.