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Interactions between high-speed rail and air passenger transport - COST 318

Air traffic could be reduced by up to 50% by the development of high-speed railways in Europe, according to the final report of COST Action 318.

However the project estimates that there will be 30,000 km of high-speed rail lines in Europe by the year 2015, that would point to...
Air traffic could be reduced by up to 50% by the development of high-speed railways in Europe, according to the final report of COST Action 318.

However the project estimates that there will be 30,000 km of high-speed rail lines in Europe by the year 2015, that would point to a smaller reduction in air travel of between 15-20%. Nevertheless this would result in real consumer benefits by significantly reducing environmental damage from fuel emissions.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has forecast that growth rates in air transport are likely to increase, resulting in a costly increase in passenger capacity constraints. However the Europe-wide high-speed railway system could absorb at least part of this increase in travellers

A strong influence on air passenger transport (APT) was first realised in 1981 with the inauguration of the first high-speed rail (HSR) link between Paris and Lyon. COST Action 318 was initiated to identify and analyse the interactions and complementarities between the two high-speed transport systems and to investigate the benefits which arise from combined actions for users and public welfare.

The report looked at how to optimise the adjustment between supply and demand for both HSR and APT, and considered the possibility of coordinating air and rail transport systems capacities. The possibility of the two systems becoming complementary - for example using HSR to distribute air demand among airports - was also investigated, as was the socio-economic profitability of the new high speed systems (HSS). Best effects result if railway stations at important airports connect HSR and APT networks, the report concluded.

Mr Jean-Pierre Widmer, chairman of the Action's fourth working group said; 'High-speed rail networks are growing, and there is much opportunity for them to grow further. I expect in the near future that countries such as the UK which don't have a HSR system, will develop one, but in order to justify the high investment involved there needs to be a frequency of service similar to domestic trains - at least one every hour. And this only makes sense if the network is being developed elsewhere in Europe.

'Clearly there are several variables that determine the economics of developing a HSR system, including topography, size of the country, density of the population, infrastructure and of course distance involved. The report found that on distances between 350 and 800 km the HSR retained a competitive advantage. The main advantage for passengers is that they arrive in city centres.'

Chief airport planner for Swissair Davor Franck said: 'We welcome this report because it is a subject that many people in Europe are talking about at the moment, without really knowing what they are talking about.

'I work for an airline so my objective is to find out how planes and trains can work together without fighting. My aim is to find the optimum way of transporting people from A to B, whether it be train or plane or whatever.

'It's a big topic in Europe these days because many people are concerned about the environmental issues, and a lot of people are interested in the financial aspects and the two groups are somehow fighting against each other. There is real potential for COST to discuss and develop the issue and to bring it forward.'

Source: COST Transport Secretariat

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