Madrid Barajas Airport's status as an international hub will likely diminish the effect of the proposed ban, Source: Depositphotos

Spain bans domestic flights if there’s a train route that travels as fast

Spain bans domestic flights if there’s a train route that travels as fast

It will become the second European country to implement this

At the end of last week, it was announced that Spain will ban certain short-haul domestic flights as part of its 2050 climate action plan. The benchmark to decide which flights will be cancelled will depend mainly on whether there is a high-speed train route that can connect the same two points in less than two and a half hours.

Even if airplanes fly at faster speeds when you factor in other things such as time to do security checks, check-in, load, unload and retrieve luggage, plus the fact that airports are located outside of cities whereas train stations are in the urban core, the reality is that in many cases travelling by rail ends up being just as fast or faster.

The difference between both modes of travel, however, shows up in the CO2 emissions tally and is vastly in favour of railway journeys.

How effective will the Spanish domestic flight ban be though?

The flight restriction is part of an agreement made in the Spanish Congress by the national coalition government. It has been mulled as a policy since 2021.

There is, in fact, one other European country that has already implemented such a prohibition on short-haul flights – France. The neighbour to the north banned domestic flights that have a 2.5-hour train connection alternative last May. However, critics say that the final effect has been minimal and likely the same thing will also happen in Spain.

The problem is that the proposed legislation contains a clause, which states that there will be an exception for “cases of connection with hub airports that link with international routes”. Given the central location of Madrid in Spain, but also its international flight hub status, and similarly, for Barcelona, that means that at the end of the day, the number of domestic flights that would be cut by the new legislation will also likely end up being minimal.

Thus, it won’t be enough to make a pronounced improvement in the reduction of emissions. Opposition politicians have already criticized the move for making Spain “less competitive” while causing no significant positive effect on the environment.



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