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Rail out competes—multiple warrants

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Rail out competes—multiple warrants

Jorritsma 9[Peter, writer for Aerlines, a dutch aviation magazine,, issue 43]

Introduction Competition between high-speed trains (HST) and airplanes is becoming a hot issue again nowadays. High fuel prices and the introduction of a so-called ecological surcharge in the Netherlands on airplane tickets have put pressure on airline companies, and have created new opportunities for high-speed rail transport. Eurostar recently announced it experienced a 20 per cent growth in passengers over the last six months, compared to the same period in 2007. This has been due to improved travel times between Brussels and London and between Paris and London. Eurostar did not mention whether passengers substituted from the airplane or car, nor is it clear if the growth can be attributed to a generation effect (i.e. new journeys). Airline companies have also taken a slice of the pie of high speed transport. KLM /Air France participate together with Dutch Railways in the High Speed Alliance (HSA) which operates the Thalys trains on the Amsterdam-Paris route. Passengers will be transferred from the airplane to the trains at the airline hub with their ticket booked by the airline company. Factors Influencing Substitution Many factors influence the market shares between the airplane and high-speed trains. According to the literature, travel time is the most important one. Barron (2007) reports market shares ranging from 10 percent to 97 percent for HST compared to the airplane. The HST has a clear advantage over the airplane on city pairs with travel times between two and three hours. The train can achieve market shares of between 50 and 90 percent. Good examples are city pairs such as Paris-Lyon, Madrid-Seville and Rome-Bologna. The Thalys high-speed train on the Amsterdam-Paris (4 hours) route, which is not yet in full operation, already has a market share of approximately 45 percent compared to the airplane. Other factors that contribute to the relative position of rail to air are ticket prices, frequency of the service, the integration of networks, airline alliances, accessibility of railway stations and airport terminals, reliability and punctuality of the services and government policy. In general, the ticket price for high-speed rail travel is lower than for air travel, and this difference is reflected in the market share, which is in favor of the HST. However, the rise of low cost air carriers has put pressure on overall ticket prices in the air market. On certain city pairs (i.e. LondonEdinburgh), low-cost carriers even offer tickets below the price of a train ticket. Unfortunately, hardly any research is available about the impact of low-cost carriers on the substitution rate. Eisenkopf (2006) estimates a substitution rate from rail to air ranging from 5 per cent (Cologne- Hamburg) to 13 per cent (Cologne-Munich). Travel time and travel costs to and from the airport terminal to the city center or downtown area determine the accessibility of the airport. On the route Madrid-Barcelona, the average travel time and travel costs from the city to the airport are relatively low. That is one of the reasons for the high market share of the airplane on that route. On the other hand, the highspeed train has a significant market share on the Paris-London route, despite its high ticket price. Poor accessibility of both airports by train and road is probably a factor that has a certain influence (Steer Davies Gleave, 2006). The operators of high-speed rail services find reliability and punctuality important factors that contribute to higher market shares. For example, the punctuality of the Eurostar (the share of trains with, at the most, a 15 minutes deviation from the timetable) has increased from 79 per cent since it started operations to 89 per cent today. Eurostar claims that punctuality is as important as improving travel time. Improved punctuality makes it also attractive for business travelers to plan their return journey over longer distances on the same day.

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