Green news: Orchestra switches Europe tour from plane to train

Green news: Orchestra switches Europe tour from plane to train


norman lebrecht

February 14, 2020

The London-based Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment has decided to travel by train, not plane, on this month’s visits to Poland and Hungary.

The switch will increase the journey time from two and a half to 24 hours, but the CO2e saving will be 15,000 metric tonnes.

The period-instrument band aims to be a brand-leader in environmental awareness.


  • Willymh says:

    Oh thank god I read the headlines, looking at the photo I thought that railways were starting to destroy valuable instruments the way airlines do!

  • CYM says:

    Looks like the cello on picture wasn’t on track. Was the cellist well ‘trained’ or ‘plane’ careless ? On the wagon, perhaps, which made him derailed.
    Well, Brutish Airlines would not better protect this cello.

  • Long Long says:

    Typically a London orchestra would use 4 flights for this tour and spend 2 nights in hotels and it would cost an orchestra in total 3 days of player’s time. This particular tour has 6 full travel days, plus 2 concert days, uses 17 – yes seventeen – trains and 5 nights in hotels. Needless to say this is hugely expensive and not the future of touring and one can only imagine the OAE is doing it to make a point.

  • Dennis says:

    Do they and other orchestras normally travel commercial or do they usually charter flights?

    If the former, then unless the airline is actually cancelling a normally scheduled route, I presume the plane will still fly, and there will be no actually “co2 savings”. Pure posturing and virtue signalling. I enjoy trains more than planes myself, but not for some faux-virtuous environmental showboating.

    Also, is there a risk that longer time spent traveling will make for more tired orchestras and lower quality performances?

    • Mr. Knowitall says:

      That is a weird interpretation of supply and demand. If they were to charter, yes, of course these flights would be eliminated. But commercial airlines try to fly at capacity. If fewer people buy tickets, either ticket prices will drop to lure more customers or airlines will reduce the number of flights. If reducing ticket prices fails to fill planes, then the number of flights will be lowered. And, as well documented on SD, flying commercial nowadays presents grave risks to the safety of musical instruments.

  • Jean says:

    We (Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg) travel to Istambul next week, but there is no more Orient Express…

  • allen says:

    If they really want to be an authentic period-instrument orchestra, maybe they should try traveling the way that orchestras would have in the 18th century … by horse and carriage! Now how much would that help save the environment? 😉

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    Shouldn’t historically-informed ensembles travel by horse and carriage? I wish I could!

  • Gustavo says:

    Good move.

    More time for public rehearsals.

  • SVM says:

    This is excellent news (although I wonder whether this modal switch will apply to the conductor?). I would be interested to know whether this would also result in a smaller load that travels as “freight”. It is my understanding that an orchestra on tour generally transports many of its instruments by lorry, especially the larger ones. Given, however, the relative ease with which one can take, for example, a ‘cello on a train (compared with a plane), will this facet also change somewhat? Presumably, timpani and double basses would still have to go in a lorry?

  • Gordon Davies says:

    Historically Informed Travel.

  • fflambeau says:

    Now, that is enlightened.

  • Gerry McDonald says:

    How about historically informed travel – stagecoach and sailing ship?

  • Oresta Cybriwsky says:

    And the instruments won’t get smashed or lost.

  • Nick says:

    Electricity costs much more and then the time lost. Life is priceless and the Time is very limited! Hence, the action is stupid!

    • SVM says:

      Yes, “Life is priceless”. Therefore, reducing deadly air pollution should be applauded. Or does Nick think that only some lives are “priceless”?

  • Dave T says:

    Living up to their name. Bravo.

  • Philip says:

    How perfectly ridiculous. A severe waste of those musician’s valuable time. Hopefully this foolishness won’t spread to the major orchestras.

  • Alank says:

    Maybe they should be truly authentic and use horse and carriage!

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Also gives the opportunity to protect their valuable instruments. Great move. Of course, it has happened before. During the Bach Pilgrimage in 2000 JEG and his orchestra travelled by train through Europe.

  • Anon says:

    The Academy of Ancient Music are joining OAE in pursuing a goal of environmental responsibility whilst continuing to believe in the value of live music-making: