Is plane travel a waste of time?

High speed trains derail the notion that flying is always the fastest way of getting from A to B

Passengers on the high-speed AVE in Atocha (Madrid).
Passengers on the high-speed AVE in Atocha (Madrid).álvaro garcía

What is the fastest way to get from London to Paris – the plane or the train? One might first think plane, but that would be the wrong answer.

Between the time it takes to get to the airport, check in, line up for the ever more rigorous airport security, collect the luggage and get to the center of Paris, we’re not just talking about the 80 minutes up in the air.

Door to door, so to speak, it’s more like fours hours, which is one hour and 41 minutes longer than by train, according to Berlin-based travel search engine GoEuro, which has been comparing rail and air travel between European cities.

We often assume that flying is the fastest mode of transport, but the European rail network is incredible

GoEuro founder Naren Shaam

The train was also found to shave one hour and five minutes off the 600km journey between Madrid and Barcelona, while the 300km Brussels-Paris route saw the train with a lead of almost four hours – one hour 22 minutes on the train, compared to an incredible five and a half hours for air travel, including waiting times at the airport.

Ciro Fakhr, head of GoEuro’s press department, says the study includes a margin of error of 15 minutes, but that the train still wins hands down.

“It’s more practical to arrive downtown than at Charles de Gaulle airport, which is further out,” he notes.

 The train also has the edge from Brussels to London, which takes two hours and 18 minutes compared to five hours or more by plane, not to mention Madrid to Seville, Rome to Milan and Dusseldorf to Amsterdam, all of which are close to an hour shorter by train.

Heightened security in Brussels

A lot of the journeys that are quicker by train depart from Brussels, where passengers are required to be at the airport three hours before their flight in the wake of the March 22 terrorist attacks, according to Fakhr.

“Time is money,” says GoEuro founder Naren Shaam. “We often assume that flying is the fastest mode of transport, but the European rail network is incredible, and thanks to its high speed trains, we can save time going by rail.”

English version by Heather Galloway.


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