The attractions of trains and the drawbacks of flying are becoming increasingly apparent around the world.

This summer Air France is planning to withdraw its five daily flights between Paris and Brussels.

Many people are asking why a highly polluting aircraft should be operated when the high-speed Thalys rail service has departures leaving Paris at half-hourly intervals during peak periods and hourly for the rest of the day. It takes only one hour 25 minutes by train.

The Thalys trains could easily call at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle, and be timed to connect with Air France long-haul flights.

Thalys has already cornered the Paris-Brussels inter-city market and could easily take Air France’s "interlining" traffic from Belgium too.

In Germany Lufthansa and German Railways are planning to replace planes between Stuttgart and Frankfurt by trains.

One of the important factors for international travellers will be devising ways to handle checked baggage on plane-replacement trains.

But generally trains offer more congenial travelling conditions than planes and better connections in town centres.

And even though there are vast hidden subsidies for air travel, Stuttgart-Frankfurt is a loss-maker.

If the Stuttgart-Frankfurt plane-trains are successful, Dusseldorf, Koln and Bonn could get them too.

Even in America, people are beginning to wake up to rail’s environmental advantages. In Time magazine of 19 February, correspondent Roger Griffith of Lombard, Illinois suggested, to prevent gridlock in the air, "constructing high-speed rail systems to serve the needs currently met by the many short airline flights of only a few hundred miles".

He added: "We don’t need to build more airports and add runways. A short trip between urban centres (say, Chicago and Detroit) on high-speed rail would be as fast or faster than a short-haul plane flight.

"Let’s put our tax money into a transportation system that would be faster, more efficient, better for the environment and less affected by the weather than airline travel."