Increasing rail’s competitiveness versus flying needs European approach

European governments will have to come up with a continent-wide approach to rail in order to have trains compete with planes, a report by Koios consultancy concludes. Released earlier in the year, the report was commissioned by Transport & Environment (TE).

Koios, like Goudappel’s Vincent Wever earlier this week on SpoorProTV, argues that there is ample room for capacity increases in the current network to mount an effective challenge to air travel. The roll out of the European Rail Traffic Management System especially should enable increased capacity, both on regular tracks and high-speed rail. In some countries, however, the room for manoeuvring is limited, including in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany, Austria and the United Kingdom.

Reduced travel time

The study also argues for reduced travel times. This can be achieved through higher cruising speeds, less stops and fewer delays at border crossings. These measures have the potential to cut travel times by as much as 10 percent. Easier booking and ticketing could also help to maximise the potential of international railway travel.

Night trains, too, could heighten the profile of railways. Because of the convenient morning arrival times, these trains could compete with planes on distances regular trains can’t: 800 to 1.200 kilometres. One important condition, the Koios report argues, is that night trains should connect urban centres with at least 1 million inhabitants.

In order to facilitate all of the above, European governments would do well to put in please measures to increases the railways’ competitiveness. One way of achieving this would be to urge national railway companies to step up cross-border cooperation and the exchange of information. Travellers can play their part by opting for destinations that can be reached via rail as opposed to those that can’t.

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Author: Nick Augusteijn


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