PH-GOV: a good name for a train | Opinion

Now that the discussion about the usefulness of an aviation tax is once again in full swing, the same arguments can be heard from both sides. Raising or even the very existence of the aviation tax would, on the one hand, make flying elitist. On the other hand, such a charge would make the use of the train more attractive.

The train: cheaper and faster

Travel times to major European cities by train are often relatively long compared to travel times by plane. Various solutions have been devised for this. For example, there are now night trains from Amsterdam to Zurich and Vienna. The train already offers a good alternative to some cities. The time saved by flying from Amsterdam to London is limited, and the train between Amsterdam and Paris is even faster than the plane, when travel times to the city centers and waiting times at the airport are taken into account.

It has been said for some time about the flights between Amsterdam and Paris that they only get their right to exist from the transfer passengers. It is usually more expensive to fly between the two cities, and considering the time between check-in and boarding, it often takes longer. In addition, Thalys makes several stops along the way so that travelers from, for example, The Hague can quickly catch the train.

Ministers by plane

With more than ten trains a day and attractively priced tickets, it really looks like the train has hit the plane, at least on this route. KLM even offers an extra daily flight to Thalys. However, not everyone is convinced: Dutch ministers still prefer to take the plane themselves. After all, why travel by train when you can regularly have a Boeing 737 shuttle back and forth to Paris at the expense of taxpayers?

Although the flights that government planes are not often discussed, it is possible to follow the planes. It emits an ADS-B signal that can be received and used to share its location on various tracking sites. The device can also be tracked via Twitterwhich clearly shows how often there are consequences over distances that can just as well or even better be bridged by train.

Now, of course, I understand that Minister Hoekstra will not sleep on a folding bed in the night train, but the train to Paris should actually be comfortable enough. In addition, the flight is relatively long occupied with boarding and disembarking: The work on board can therefore only be performed to a limited extent, while it would not be a problem at all on the train.

Despite the improvements that KLM and Thalys are currently trying to implement, I am personally reluctant to book a train journey associated with an aircraft. This is mainly due to my love of aviation: the short flight between Amsterdam and Paris is like an excursion for me. But another important factor is that it feels a bit ‘exciting’ to book such a connection. What if the train is delayed and there is (too) little time left at Schiphol? Of course, a plane can also be delayed, but I still experience it as a greater risk when a train connection has to connect to a plane.

One hundred euros more expensive

With a flight tax of 24 euros, the average Dutch family would pay around a hundred euros extra to take a flight holiday. Meanwhile, the airline tickets themselves are getting more and more expensive, as well as a lot of other holiday costs. Maybe the higher tax does not immediately mean that the families stay at home a lot, but the sum will reduce the holiday fun, now that there is less budget left to eat out or go on excursions. Anyone who goes on holiday with the family, and is therefore bound by school holidays, often pays relatively much for a plane ticket. Meanwhile, frequent flyers who regularly fly and / or take vacation days for their journey, whether at the expense of their company or not, are unlikely to be stopped by the higher airfare.

All in all, a large part of the short flights can of course be replaced by train connections, especially if the passenger in question does not change, but travels from A to B. But whether an extra tax contributes to this, one must see. For many Dutch people, the airports in Brussels and Düsseldorf are just as close or even closer than Schiphol. Will an extra tax really change their flying behavior? In passing, Minister Kaag seems to have forgotten the previous air passenger tax, which existed between 1 July 2008 and 1 July 2009. In view of the effects of the air passenger tax in the period leading up to its early abolition, the following can be concluded:

The air passenger tax has had a clear negative effect on the number of travelers traveling from Dutch airports, especially from Schiphol. The main airports visited by travelers were Düsseldorf, Weeze and Brussels. The air passenger tax reinforced two developments that have been going on for some time: travelers from mainly the eastern and southern Netherlands are increasingly flying from foreign airports, and travelers are increasingly using so-called low-cost airlines such as Ryanair.

Source: “Effects of air passenger tax: behavioral reactions from travelers, airlines and airports”

This is not my conclusion, it is an excerpt from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water’s website, from a study of the airfare, which was carried out at the request of the ministry itself.

Good example

What also helps is not to use PH-GOV as a shuttle bus. For example, last year it was revealed that Minister Kaag, then Foreign Minister, had flown from Amsterdam to Luxembourg with PH-GOV. The plane then flew empty back to Amsterdam to fly empty again to Luxembourg the day after, where she was picked up. And that while Luxembourg is only a few hours drive from The Hague.

If the government’s goal really is to encourage citizens to choose other ‘green’ travel methods more often, then perhaps it is time to set a good example themselves. I therefore sincerely hope that from now on, the Minister will first take the train himself before lecturing on the Dutch national.

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