All aboard: Enter the railway renaissance

According to Intrepid, 92 percent of UK travelers want to take a train on their next trip. And governments across the world seem to be listening to passengers’ calls for more, better, cheaper, and faster trains.

Last year, Mexico opened Tren Maya, a long-distance train around the Yucatán Peninsula. It expects to transport 3 million passengers per year on the new railroad. Also in the last year, France, Portugal, and Germany started offering unlimited budget-friendly rail passes for EUR49 (some terms and age-based conditions apply, of course). And in an effort to combat the climate impacts of flying, some European countries are working on barring short-haul domestic flights where those journeys can be replaced by trains for relatively little extra time.

Intrepid isn’t the first company to ignite a new focus on flight-free adventures, but its announcement may signal a shift in how travelers see transportation as a part of their overall adventure. Several years ago, The Guardian shifted its travel coverage to exclude most trips that can’t be done without traveling. And while Interrailing has long been the hallmark of budget-friendly European gap years, and ultra-luxury train travel has always been available to those who can afford it, incorporating long-distance rail journeys into a guided itinerary presents a new option for travelers who find themselves somewhere in between. 

Demand for overland journeys has skyrocketed in recent years as many people have cut back on flying due to environmental concerns. Last year, tour operator Responsible Travel told The Independent that interest in its slow travel trips was up 220 percent from 2021 to 2022.

Byway, too, has answered travelers’ requests for more environmentally-friendly adventure options. The company claims to be the first 100 percent flight-free travel company, offering self-guided train journeys across Europe. It was founded during lockdown by  “lifelong overlander” Cat Jones. Byway plans overland journeys by train and ferry that rely largely on the Interrail pass, which offers travelers flexible, unlimited travel between destinations. But rather than staying in budget hostels or sleeping upright in second-class carriages, the company books its guests in hotels, inns, and on sleeper trains or ferries.

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