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Thalys high-speed train, source: Wikipedia

Cost-effectiveness is a key to railway success in competition with aviation

A lot of passengers travelling between Paris and Amsterdam notice that a train ticket is sometimes more expensive than a flight. Kimmo Oostermeyer, an expert in infrastructure and operations at RebelGroup, explained that the price difference between the modes of transportation lies in their costs. According to him, the situation could be changed in favour of the railway industry. Kimmo Oostermeyer will tell more at the RailTech Europe conference in the Jaarbeurs in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

The RebelGroup has made a case study for the replacement of all flights on the Paris-Amsterdam corridor by high-speed trains. The researchers discovered some remarkable facts. “In the comparison between train and plane on the Amsterdam – Paris corridor, we have seen that the operational and maintenance cost for the train is less than half of those for the plane. Yet the total cost for the train is about 60 per cent higher, caused by the track access charges that are levied,” Kimmo Oostermeyer said.

Reducing costs

The infrastructure expert considers that high-speed trains still have a chance to compete with the planes. To use it and win the aviation, the railway industry is obliged to carry out several measures. Kimmo Oostermeyer noticed that the train operators can downscale their operational and maintenance costs. To reach this, all the modern practices including automatisation can be used. “Mechanised/imaging-based inspection techniques are helpful tools to better distribute the workload over the day and therefore to increase staff productivity, as it may help in reducing the idle waiting time of rapid response teams. Adoption of best practices can reduce costs significantly,” the expert of RebelGroup concluded.

Track access charges

At the same time, Kimmo Oostermeyer stressed that the track access charges are difficult to change due to the obligations of the infrastructure managing companies. “The infrastructure managers need to maintain the network. The complexity and redundancy of the network by design have a great impact on the cost of maintenance and the availability plus reliability,” he said. Nevertheless, the infrastructure managers should also work on improving their effectiveness in terms of the maintenance organisation. Eventually, their effectiveness will create opportunities to lower the price of the track access charges.

Kimmo Oostermeyer will give a presentation at the Conference ‘Predictive maintenance of Rail Infrastructure’ of RailTech Europe on 28 March in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The programme of the event can be found on the event website.

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Author: Mykola Zasiadko

Mykola Zasiadko is editor of online trade magazines RailTech.com and RailFreight.com.

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