Fritidsresor brings about 1.2 million Swedish vacationers around the world by airplanes, every year. Blue Train is one of the concept products in the corporation and the idea was to offer an old-fashioned and a comfortable way to travel, Häggström says.
“Blue Train has a good potential to grow and move large amounts of travelers within central Europe from charter flights to charter trains, thus reducing CO2 emissions from those travelers by 75 percent,” says Lennart Hägglund, an independent energy and environment consultant.
In short, Hägglund explains, one passenger travelling by train from Malmö to Verona, Italy, would cause 75 percent less CO2 emissions per kilometer than travelling by a Boeing 737-800.
But there are pros and cons with train charter, Häggström adds.
“It takes longer, it is a little more expensive and you have to make some layovers,” he says. “But you get to see so much more on the way and it’s comfortable and quite a few people are afraid of flying.”
Both Hägglund and Häggström points out that the central European trains are much more comfortable than the Swedish high-speed train, X2000.
So far, only about 5,000 travellers have gone by train to various destinations, including beach resorts and metropolitan cities around Europe. But it is not a product intended for mass appeal, at least not yet, officials say. It is slowly but surely growing.
According to sj.se, Vingresor started new destinations to Zell Am Zee, Lake Garda and Venice, while Fritidsresor is now also offering a train cruise through four European countries. Train cruise travellers will go by Blue Train in southern Germany, which brings them via a river boat through Germany, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia. The advertisement promises “stops at vineyards and distilleries, exciting cities and botanical gardens” on the way.
While charter companies Fritidsresor and Vingresor take care of the lodging, food and activities at the destinations, SJ organizes the train travel portion of the trip, which begins with the night-train Malmö-Berlin.
“It started on a small scale as a test, which resulted in a positive response and caught a lot of interest,” says Sven-Ingvar Håkansson, a press officer with SJ. “We have actually seen some of the interailers come back.”
Håkansson speaks of the interail generation that backpacked around Europe 20 years ago.
“They have now been travelling around the world via airline charter and are ready to try something new, an environmentally-friendly way to reach charter destinations seems appealing to them,” he says.
In the future Hägglund says, CO2 emissions could be greatly reduced as railroad networks around Europe improve even more. He predicts that train charter will increase greatly the day the rails are compatible throughout Europe and a traveller can board a train in Malmö one day and wake up on the French Riviera the following morning.
“Central Europe is way ahead of us in Sweden, but it’s an ongoing venture and I think this will become a lot bigger than it is now,” he says.