With airfares soaring, it makes sense that Australians are looking at other ways of getting to holiday destinations and interstate meetings or other work events.
Some are turning to driving, although with rising petrol prices, finding it adding up too. Others are turning to an oft-forgotten about method of travel – one that’s more convenient than driving, but not as expensive as flying: train travel.
A Transport for NSW spokesperson told Traveller figures from October 2022 showed patronage for train travel had more than doubled those of February 2020 and that December’s patronage levels are expected to reach close to pre-COVID levels as well.
After decades of debate and delay, the federal government recently promised to develop high-speed rail on the east coast. Labor said the proposed high-speed rail authority would launch a “nation-building” project running from Melbourne to Brisbane. Trains on the line would run at 350km/h and stop in Canberra, Sydney, and other regional centres.
“High-speed rail is not only a mode of transport, it is a mode of transformation,” Japan’s ambassador Shingo Yamagami told Sydney Morning Herald.
“Once introduced, it will completely change both [the] economic and social landscape in Australia because that is what we experienced in Japan.”
Late last year, Pinterest identified train travel as the defining travel trend of 2023. According to the platform’s Pinterest Predicts reports, searches for rail-related quotes, inspo, and aesthetics were some of the highest trends.
‘Interrailing Europe aesthetic’ searches were up to 105% in 2022, while ‘Indian railway station photography’ saw a 175% increase. ‘Train trip aesthetic’ was up 205%, while the highest searching trend ‘train quotes travel’ increased by 285%.
Aside from the actual fares being cheaper than flights, train travel also works out to be cheaper because you can usually take luggage free of charge, not to mention you always arrive at a city centre, so you don’t need to spend on expensive airport transfers.
“The recent increase in night train services also rival planes and cars due to the precious travel time they save by moving travellers from one destination to the next while they’re sleeping,” says Yi Ding, Business and Growth Manager at Eurail.
Another perk of train travel is its sustainability factor. It’s undisputedly a more sustainable mode of transport, says Ding. She says that getting around by train allows travellers to lower their carbon footprint, but the positive impacts go far beyond that.
“Travelling by train takes you to the heart of a destination and also makes it easier for travellers to get off the beaten track to lesser-known destinations,” Ding says. “This helps with the negative impacts of over-tourism in some parts of the world, and also helps to spread the tourism dollar to more small and local businesses.”
Sustainability is about community as much as it’s about the environment, she says.
Other perks include that it lends itself to a slow and immersive holiday. There’s also a nostalgic glamour of train travel. Some train tickets also come with discounts to attractions in cities.
Ding says that while Europe has a dense network of railways that cover more than 30,000 destinations, Australia is far less connected rail-wise and so we’re not as familiar with it as a method of transport. Though, if airfares continue to rise and the country’s rail network continues to be developed, that might change soon.