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'A revelation' – international work travel by train

26 Apr 2023

How Manchester Museum Director, Esme Ward connected with museum colleagues across Europe – with not one late train and full WiFi, time to read and see the sights – as she journeyed to a conference in Stockholm

Esme Ward

“It was a revelation and a gamechanger,” declares Manchester Museum Director, Esme Ward.

“Manchester - London - Amsterdam on Eurostar, then Amsterdam-Hamburg, Hamburg-Copenhagen  and Copenhagen – Stockholm - Oslo by train.

“Not one late train. Wi-Fi throughout. Reading and writing time. And a shift in my mindset – I built relationships as I travelled, which is bearing fruit now.”

Esme – who recently oversaw the reopening of our much-loved museum to queues of eager visitors – travelled in November 2022 when she was a keynote speaker at a conference in Stockholm.

Her travel plans are the perfect example of how we can reduce carbon emissions from air travel.

Our University is aiming to limit them to 50% of our 2018/19 level (pre the Covid-19 pandemic) through a change to our travel policy. This is part of a wider project to reduce our total carbon footprint.

Esme stopped in each city on her journey – and in Oslo on her return journey – to connect with museum colleagues and fellow researchers across Europe.

The conference paid for her accommodation in Stockholm and the value of a return flight; the rest she funded herself from the speaker fee and museum budget.

“It’s a brilliant way to travel,” Esme adds.

“It takes more time to plan and organise and might cost more, but there’s huge value as well as obvious environmental benefits. It’s the way to do it.”

Esme is not alone – our President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nancy Rothwell carefully considers whether or not the objectives of any meeting which might involve travel can be equally met via a virtual engagement. A recent example was the North American Foundation for the University of Manchester (NAFUM) Board, which Nancy joined virtually.

And again, when Nancy does travel overseas on University business, she always has a very full programme of high-level engagements to maximise the use of her time.

Our travel policy

Our University produced 18,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2018/2019 – the same as driving 2,800 times around the world in a petrol-fuelled car or 17,800 passenger flights between Manchester and New York.

Our new travel policy addresses this and will work alongside other projects to reduce our total carbon footprint, from our buildings, fleet vehicles and business travel and from what we buy, our investments and our staff and student travel.

We are supporting those of you who are affected by the travel policy change. This includes paying a ‘top-up fund’ to cover additional costs and providing full details and support on Before Travelling website.

It is essential that we all make changes where we can as part of the global need to address climate change. Changing our policies and behaviour will make a difference to our world now and for future generations.

Thank you for your support in this important initiative.

More information

For full Travel Policy requirements and supporting guidance to help you weigh up essential travel against environmental cost, please visit:

Our Travel FAQs address concerns you may have when attempting to reduce your air travel: