It goes without saying now that the global travel industry has taken has pretty massive hit in 2020. But as countries begin to lift travel restrictions around the world, it seems governments could well step in to help.
In Europe, French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel have driven efforts to draw up a €2 trillion (£1.8 trillion, $2.2 trillion or A$3.2 trillion) EU recovery package to ensure struggling industries – including tourism – make it through these trying times.
And now an official report has suggested one of the most effective uses of this money would be to spend it on an ultra-rapid train network linking major destinations across the continent.
A document from the Vienna Institute for Economic Studies proposes a series of massive trans-Europe infrastructure projects – including a high-speed train network that would include a four-hour link between Paris and Berlin.
The plan suggests building four high-speed lines that build on existing train networks: Paris to Dublin (via Brest-Cork ferry); Lisbon to Helsinki (via Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and onwards to Finland); Brussels to Valletta (via Germany, Switzerland, Italy, then ferry to Malta); and Berlin to Nicosia (including a ferry link between Piraeus and Paphos, and a loop through Central Europe from Vienna to Sofia).
‘An average speed in the range of 250 to 350 km/hour should be achieved,’ the report reads. ’This would allow passengers to halve the current rail travel times, for instance, from Paris to Berlin in about four hours, making air travel for a large part of the intra-European passenger transport obsolete.’
And as well as making life easier for many tourists, this would bring serious environmental benefits. ‘Cutting by around half the EU’s domestic air passenger operations has the potential to reduce global commercial aviation CO2 emissions by about 4 to 5 percent,’ the authors add.