Trains could replace more than half of flights leaving Geneva, report claims

Trains could replace more than half of flights leaving Geneva, report claims

A new report by Noé21, commissioned by the Green Party of Switzerland, has confirmed that not only do people in the alpine nation visit the airport very regularly, but many of the flights they take could instead be completed by public transport. Most notably, 52 percent of journeys leaving Geneva can be done by rail.

Air passenger numbers in Switzerland reach 14 million a year

After a slump related to the COVID pandemic, flight passengers leaving Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Bern and St. Gallen totalled more than 14 million passengers last year, with families and individuals returning to holiday and leisure flying in their droves. Speaking to 20 Minuten, Noé21 said that for Switzerland to hit its climate emissions targets, the number of air passengers will have to fall by 77 percent by the end of the decade, down to 3,2 million a year.

Grand Council of Geneva candidate for the Greens and scientist Jérôme Strobel said that Switzerland has created a culture of “problematic consumption”, fuelled by low-cost flights. He noted that in 2022, people in Geneva flew 4,1 times on average - double the Swiss average, four times the rate in the EU and 20 times the rate in the rest of the world.

52 percent of Geneva's destinations reachable by rail

What’s more, Noé21 argued that of the top destinations that people flew to in 2022, "half of the flights could be made by train." The report noted that 52 percent of Geneva’s flights are to destinations that could be reached by train in less than eight hours, while 30 percent are three to six hours away, meaning some rail routes take nearly as long as flying - once getting to the airport, security, luggage and arrivals processes are accounted for.

Therefore, National Councillor Delphine Klopfenstein Broggini said that the country should “bet on rail”, noting that “the rail network exists in Europe, what is missing is the rolling stock.” The Noé21 report calculated that by adding 24 new international rail routes from Geneva, using track that already exists, the number of passengers using Geneva Cointrin Airport could be reduced by 6 million passengers a year, while 42 percent of aircraft movements could be absorbed by rail.

Swiss Greens bet on rail, but fall in the polls

In commenting on the report, the Green Party told 20 Minuten that they would put climate change and developing transportation at the heart of its campaign for the federal elections this year. Some of their proposals include developing the Swiss night train network and issuing cheaper public transport tickets similar to the Deutschlandticket that is due to be sold in Germany from April.

However, at the moment, things aren’t looking all sunshine and rainbows for the Greens, with the latest election poll from SRF showing that the party would suffer the biggest decline in votes of any party (-2,5 percent) if an election were to be held today, placing fifth with 10,7 percent of the vote - for those interested, the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) would have placed first with 26,6 percent of the vote.

SRF explained that despite climate change still being the top concern for Swiss voters, the Greens are no longer the only party to take up the cause, making it difficult for the group to differentiate itself.

Thumb image: / Sorbis

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

Read more



Leave a comment