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Environmental Concerns Driving Swedes to More Train Travel

By Jack Rosebro

A recent increase in Swedish passenger train traffic has been driven by climate and other environmental concerns, according to a new study released by SJ (Statens Järnvägar), Sweden’s state train company.

When asked to give the most important reasons for choosing the train for their journey, users gave two primary reasons. “The environment” tied for top position at 36% with “relaxation” [as compared to other modes of transport]. In the previous year, just 24% gave the environment as their main reason for using the train.

“We’re clearly seeing how travellers’ environmental awareness is increasing, at the cost of both the car and plane,” said Sven Andersson, head of SJ’s customer and market analysis department.

SJ reports that last year there were 37.4 million long distance passenger journeys by train, accounting for 16% of all private journeys. Air travel accounts for 14%, and the car still dominates with around 66% of private travel. Six percent of trips were by bus.

Almost all trains in Sweden, including the high-speed X2000, are electrically powered, and SJ sources that power exclusively from Sweden’s abundant base of hydropower. The company states that emission of carbon dioxide during a trip between Stockholm and Gothenburg (approximately 470 km or 290 miles) is the equivalent of 3 milliliters, or around 40 drops, of gasoline.

SJ’s website includes an interactive calculator in both Swedish and English that allows the traveler to calculate the emissions of carbon dioxide, hydrocarbon, oxides of nitrogen, and particulate output in relation to their trip, and to customize that calculation according to the percentage of seats filled, as well as comparing the trip to other modes of transport. When comparing to travel by private automobile, the calculator allows the user to select the age and fuel type of the vehicle, as well as the amount of passengers onboard.




Unfortunately, for the majority of Americans, regular train travel is really not an option. And even in those places that have AMTRACK, like the west coast of Washington, they are extremely unreliable and very rarely even come close to meeting their schedules. Sad. As a child I remember fondly my summer trips from Oklahoma City to Denver, those wonderful breakfasts after a fun night sleeping in the pullman.

Yes, we have the "freedom" of the socalled open road, what little is left of it, but we don't have the freedom to choose the alternative of reliable, fast train service.


My grandmother was Swedish(my grandfather Norwegian). My Church used to be called the Swedish Mission Covenant Church(now the Evangelical Covenant Church of America). Way to go Swedes! The reasons for total travel for environmental reasons has increased 1.9%. Its a small percentage, but surely in the right direction.

country mouse

tom is right about a lack of accessibility to trains. another defect of public transport/trains is the speed and cost. every time I take public transport, it doubles my travel time. I recently had to make 2 trips to mit. 1 trip was via the t other by car. car to alewife+T: 1h20m, 5$ park, 4$ T fare. car to central sq: 45-50min, 3.50$ park, 1$ extra gas. added benefit of car is avoiding contact with strangers without having to work hard.

Pubic transport must be made cheaper and faster in order to make public transport more attractive as an alternative to cars and available to low income people.


It's not all bad for the future of public transport. BTW, country mouse, public transportation is already HIGHLY subsidized all over the entire US. More subsidies would be ludicrous. No worries though, as public transportation is increasing as gas prices go up. Even in my sprawled out city, bus ridership is up every year. It has even stayed up when prices went down this winter.

Regarding trains, there are some parts of the country where train ridership is up significantly. I know that in the corridor near where I live they will be going to high speed (110 MPH) in a few years.
As a side note, I took a train for the first time in over 10 years recently and I was in awe. A million times more comfortable than an airplane ride, can get up and walk around, free newspaper, electric outlets to plug into, tons of space. You can bring a bike on board. Just awesome. I showed up 10 minutes before the train left and still had plenty of time.
I don't know how it is in other areas, but they're extremely on time around here too. Unfortunately, they don't run often enough. That's the one pitfall.
I'll be taking the train whenever it makes sense from now on. Even if it's a couple extra hours- I'll sacrifice an hour or 2 if it means I can be comfortable and enjoy myself.


"the high-speed X2000"

Yeah right. 200 km/h or something.

Give us 320-350 km/h TGV!

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