"The train is a more relaxing way to travel. Less stress, less rushing around and better for the environment too"

Interview about the new sustainable travel policy of our university
EuroStar Rotterdam Londen

Fly less and take the train more often. As of 1 January 2022, EUR employees will no longer be allowed to fly for business trips under 700 kilometres. If the train journey takes longer than 8 hours, they may travel by air. This has been decided by the Executive Board as part of the sustainability policy of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Sustainability manager Mariecke van der Glas and researcher Shirley Nieuwland are pleased with the new guidelines.

All types of travel, from business trips to commuting, accounted for 73.4% of the university's total emissions in 2020. So there is a lot to be gained in terms of sustainability. The university is now making it as easy as possible for employees to take the train. "We are going to work with a regular travel agency for bookings. It will then be easy to arrange train travel quickly. This makes it more and more normal," says Mariecke van der Glas, Programme Manager for Sustainability. "At the moment, arrangements are still different at each faculty. We are going to harmonise that."

Videocalling instead of flying

The university has an ambitious sustainability goal: to be CO2 neutral by 2024! Mobility is the biggest emitter. More than a quarter (26%) of total emissions in 2019 (the last year without lockdown and travel bans) were caused by business trips by air and only 0.09% by business trips by train. "Employees take the train less often and a train journey causes far fewer emissions than a flight. So there is a lot of profit to be made there," says Van der Glas. Due to the corona crisis, less travel was done. Emissions from business trips fell to 16% in 2020. "It is our ambition to reduce this permanently. The corona crisis has also shown that travelling is often not necessary at all and that video calls can often be a solution."

"If a new fast train connection is built, we also adapt it in our Train Zone Map"

Mariecke van der Glas, Programme Manager Sustainability

Travel more consciously

Shirley Nieuwland, a researcher in the field of sustainable tourism, believes that EUR staff should be more aware of their travel habits: "As EUR staff members or researchers, we should realise that we are in a position of luxury. Travelling abroad on the university's budget is a luxury. We should be more aware of this and think about how your trip will have as little impact as possible. Set aside two days for the trip or don't go for once."

The researcher does not see video calling as a direct replacement for travel: "Before the pandemic, I went to a conference two or three times a year. An online conference of three days just doesn't work. A short session of an hour is fine online. Looking at a screen for three days is not doable and you miss contact with the other visitors. So online is not going to replace everything."

A map to plan your train journey
To plan your train journey, 'The Train Zone Map' has been created. In it, anyone can compare train and plane journeys in terms of emissions, travel time and number of changes. "It is a living document. If a new fast train connection is built, we also adapt it in the document," says Van der Glas. "For some train journeys that are longer than 700 km or 8 hours travel time, we also recommend taking the train. This is clearly indicated in the document."

Platform with people on the train station in Rotterdam

Fast check-in and stress-free travel

Nieuwland is very happy that the new travel policy is in place. She does see this as a first step: "I would have liked it to be even more ambitious. Up to 700 km is London, Paris and Berlin. Those are such short distances. Nobody should have to fly there. Last year, I had a conference in Prague. With two trains you can get there in less than 12 hours. That is doable. If you want to make a difference, we need to promote these trips even more."

Besides being sustainable, travelling by train has other advantages compared to flying. "I go to Rotterdam Central Station by bike. You check in quickly and can sit comfortably. It is a more relax way to travel, less stressful. In the train, it is pleasant to work. If you have one train change, it is easy to do. You can actually do a whole working day from the train. Stretch your legs every now and then. I like that better than flying."

More information

Erasmus University Rotterdam embraces the concept of sustainable development as a global footprint for dignity, peace and prosperity for humanity and the planet, now and in the future. Want to know more?

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