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Across the world, people are grappling with the same question: will it be safe to take a vacation this summer?
Yesterday the European Commission unveiled a tourism strategy designed to encourage them to go on holidays, fearful that a tourist-free summer would kill off an industry that represents 10% of Europe’s economic output. But many people are still anxious about taking a plane for such a vacation, and would feel safer taking a train to their destination instead.
“In a post-COVID reality, trains give you greater leeway in terms of social distancing - choosing off-peak trains, the ability to go and stand in a less crowded carriage if yours is a little busy,” says Eran Edry, a writer living in London. “On planes, you're as good as shackled to your seat.”
But rail operators say that yesterday’s tourism strategy not only doesn’t encourage this modal shift from air to rail this summer, it seems to shut down the possibility. While the Commission has complied with the aviation lobby’s request not to require or recommend social distancing on planes, the strategy has recommended that national governments require distancing on trains.
This would mean that planes wouldn’t need to leave empty seats between passengers, but trains would.
“What they’re proposing for trains is simply not feasible,” says Libor Lochman, executive director of the Confederation of European Railways. “Requiring social distancing on board a train would mean you have to lower capacity by 40-50%. My immediate question would be who’s going to pay for that? Either authorities compensate the losses or you have to raise the ticket price, and people will move from trains to cars.”
This article first appeared on www.forbes.com
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