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One year of business trips by train, bus and ferry

Travelling is a natural part of my work at Nordregio. I travel to project meetings and workshops, seminars, conferences and to work in the field. As most of my colleagues, I usually travel by airplane. During one year between January 2011 and January 2012, I made every effort to make my business trips by train, bus and ferry.

During these months I worked mainly in two INTERREG IVB projects with partners from the Baltic Sea Region and Norway. The places I visited are between 314 km (Turku in Finland, by water) and 1423 km (Wroclaw in Poland, via Copenhagen, Hamburg and Berlin) away from Stockholm. The table below gives an overview of my business trips between January 2011 and January 2012 including transport mean and approximate travel time.

My motivation to do this was rather personal in the first place, as I do not feel particularly comfortable in airplanes. After some time and increasing interest among colleagues, I wanted to see if travelling by train, bus and ferry for business trips can be an alternative to flying. The amount of CO2 emissions and the consumption of resources that comes along with transport as such are important questions to be discussed. However they remain untouched in this article.

Travelling by train, bus and ferry is time-consuming. However, both train and ferry offer reasonable possibilities to use travel time for working. Most long distance trains (at least in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Germany) provide Wi-Fi Internet access while ferryboats usually have conference rooms that could be even used to hold working meetings during the trip. Thus travel time to for instance Copenhagen (ca. 5 h by train) or a couple of hours on the boat to e.g. Turku, Helsinki or Riga (boats leave around 17.00 from Stockholm) before going to sleep, can easily be used to write, read or prepare for the meeting next day. Furthermore, going by ferry overnight to e.g. Turku can be more convenient compared to getting up very early in the morning in order to catch the first flight (departing ca. 7.00).

Check-in time at airports actually prolongs travel time by airplane by at least one hour. Especially when planning domestic and cross-border trips to e.g. Malmö (4,5h by train), Copenhagen (5h) or Oslo (6h) this should be taken into account.

In terms of costs, train tickets can be well-priced depending on destination, date and time. For instance the return trip to Bergen was about 140 EUR. For the one-way trip to Hamburg in September I paid 146 EUR. This is a modest price given the fact that flying to Hamburg is usually rather high-priced and requires a transfer in Copenhagen, Düsseldorf or Frankfurt/Main. A private cabin on a ferry to Turku or Riga costs about 90 EUR respectively 195 EUR (one way).

In general, booking tickets for train or ferry via travel services is rather difficult from my experience. These tickets may not be offered at all, or only for domestic routes. In most cases, I had to book the tickets for each country separately using my private credit card.

It's worth underlining that decisions concerning travel are a personal decision influenced by individual preferences. I myself enjoy the train because it is nice to experience the distance between two places, I like the view out the window and to see landscapes passing by, and I am actually able to work on a train.

Going by train, bus or ferry on business trips is of course limited to certain routes and destinations. Naturally I would not travel by train from Stockholm to a one-day meeting in e.g. Brussels (BE) or Vienna (AU), which is required in projects with European wide scope. However, for trips to domestic destinations, other Nordic (i.e. NO, DK and FI) and even partly Baltic regions, travelling by train, bus and ferry can be an alternative to flying and should at least be considered as such.


 (Point of departure: Stockholm, SE)

Transport mean
Travel time (one way)[1]
 Turku (FI)
 January 2011
 Ferry (cabin)
 10,5 hours
 Riga (LV)
 March 2011
 Ferry (cabin)  18 hours
 Hemavan (SE) via Umeå
 March 2011
 Train (cabin) & bus
 14 hours
 Hamburg (DE) via Copenhagen
 April 2011
 Train  10 hours
 Bergen (NO) via Oslo
 May 2011
 Train  12,5 hours
 Wroclaw (PL) via Copenhagen, Hamburg, Berlin (overnight)
 June 2011
 Train  17,5 hours
 Riga (LV)
 August 2011
 Airplane  1,5 hours
 Hamburg (DE) via Copenhagen
 September 2011
 Train  10 hours
 Hamburg (DE) via Berlin
 November 2011
 Airplane & Train  3 hours
 Helsinki (FI)  December 2012
 Ferry  17 hours


Stefanie Lange Scherbenske

Research Fellow



[1] Time spent on train, bus, ferry or airplane excluding transfer time