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Substitution Opportunities of
High Speed Train for Air Transport
Competition between high-speed trains (HST) and airplanes is becoming a hot issue again nowa-
days. This paper describes the opportunities for substitution between air travel from Amster-
dam Airport and the high-speed train to main destinations in Europe. First, the relevant factors
influencing the substitution from airplane to high-speed train are discussed. Second, the present
situation and future trends in supply and demand in the railway and air markets are described.
Finally, an estimate of the potential substitution in 2020, based on available sources, is presen-
ted on the routes Amsterdam-Brussels, Amsterdam-Paris and Amsterdam-London.

by: Peter Jorritsma airplane on city pairs with travel times between two and three
hours. The train can achieve market shares of between 50 and
Introduction 90 percent. Good examples are city pairs such as Paris-Lyon,
Competition between high-speed trains (HST) and airplanes Madrid-Seville and Rome-Bologna. The Thalys high-speed
is becoming a hot issue again nowadays. High fuel prices and train on the Amsterdam-Paris (4 hours) route, which is not yet
the introduction of a so-called ecological surcharge in the in full operation, already has a market share of approximately
Netherlands on airplane tickets have put pressure on airline 45 percent compared to the airplane. Other factors that
companies, and have created new opportunities for high-speed contribute to the relative position of rail to air are ticket
rail transport. Eurostar recently announced it experienced a prices, frequency of the service, the integration of networks,
20 per cent growth in passengers over the last six months, airline alliances, accessibility of railway stations and airport
compared to the same period in 2007. This has been due to terminals, reliability and punctuality of the services and
improved travel times between Brussels and London and government policy.
between Paris and London. Eurostar did not mention whether
passengers substituted from the airplane or car, nor is it clear In general, the ticket price for high-speed rail travel is lower
if the growth can be attributed to a generation effect (i.e. new than for air travel, and this difference is reflected in the market
journeys). share, which is in favor of the HST. However, the rise of low-

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 Photo 1: Integration avant la lettre?! A Russian “high-speed laboratory car”, developed in Kalininsky
has a clear advantage over the carriage-building factory in end of 1970s. This train two jet engines. No photographic source found.

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cost air carriers has put pressure on Table 1: Frequency and travel time from Amsterdam to destinations
overall ticket prices in the air market. Freq. 2010 Travel time Travel time Travel time Travel time
On certain city pairs (i.e. London- Destination
(per day) HST 2010 train airplane3 Car4
Edinburgh), low-cost carriers even
Brussels 261 1:44 2:51 2:30 2:25
offer tickets below the price of a
train ticket. Unfortunately, hardly Paris 251 3:13 4:09 3:30 5:00
any research is available about the
impact of low-cost carriers on the London2 9 4:05 6:02 4:10 6:45
substitution rate. Eisenkopf (2006) Frankfurt 5 3:56 3:56 4:10 4:30
estimates a substitution rate from
rail to air ranging from 5 per cent 1 sometimes direct, sometimes with transfer
(Cologne- Hamburg) to 13 per cent 2 transfer in Brussels
(Cologne-Munich). 3 including waiting time on the airport, access and egress time to and from the city centre
4 travel time car: + 15 minutes parking time, no congestion
Travel time and travel costs to and from the airport terminal to operations to 89 per cent today. Eurostar claims that punctuality
the city center or downtown area determine the accessibility is as important as improving travel time. Improved punctuality
of the airport. On the route Madrid-Barcelona, the average makes it also attractive for business travelers to plan their
travel time and travel costs from the city to the airport are return journey over longer distances on the same day.
relatively low. That is one of the reasons for the high market
share of the airplane on that route. On the other hand, the high- Imposing taxes or surcharges on air tickets or on kerosene
speed train has a significant market share on the Paris-London is a form of government intervention mainly to reduce the
route, despite its high ticket price. Poor accessibility of both external effects of air travel. Such measures can have an
airports by train and road is probably a factor that has a certain influence on the use of alternative modes like the HST or the
influence (Steer Davies Gleave, 2006). car. In July 2008, the Dutch government imposed a surcharge
on air tickets for departing passengers of € 11.25 for flights
The operators of high-speed rail services find reliability and to European destinations and € 45 for intercontinental flights.
punctuality important factors that contribute to higher market Recent research (model simulations) shows only slight shifts
shares. For example, the punctuality of the Eurostar (the to car and train (Significance and SEO, 2007).
share of trains with, at the most, a 15 minutes deviation from
the timetable) has increased from 79 per cent since it started Supply and Demand
The European network for high-speed trains currently spans
5,000 kilometers. It is expected to increase to 7,600 km in
2010 and to approximately 15,000 km by 2020 (UIC, 2008).
The network is primarily expanding to the eastern and southern
parts of Europe. In the near future, the high-speed network
connects Amsterdam to Antwerp, Brussels, Paris, London,
Cologne and Frankfurt. Due to problems with the signaling
system and the manufacturing of the trains, the opening of the
high-speed track in the Netherlands, with direct connections
to Brussels and Paris, is delayed. It is expected to be fully
operational in 2010.

The travel time to Paris will be reduced from more than four
hours to 3 hours and 15 minutes. Travel time to London will
be cut even more, by about 2 hours. Compared to the airplane,
travel times are becoming more competitive (see table 1).
Traveling to Frankfurt, current travel times will remain
unaltered, so no benefits are gained in 2010.

Several data sources have been used to get some insight in

the present and future passenger flows by train and airplane.
Figures provided by the Dutch High Speed Company (NS
Internationaal 2007) indicate a volume of about 3.5 million
passenger journeys to France and Belgium. About one third
(1 million journeys) is accounted for by the high-speed train
to Paris (Thalys). The other 2.5 million concern journeys
to destinations in Belgium, including transfers to London
(Eurostar) at Brussels. As a result of the introduction of the
HST, the amount of journeys on the southern corridor will
increase to 5.7 million journeys in 2010. In particular, the
market with London will be growing rapidly.

Intraplan (Intraplan 2003) estimates a growth of 23 per cent

in railway journeys on the market to Brussels, 28 per cent

growth to Paris, and an increase of 42 a high potential for substitution on the
Table 2: Railway journeys from the Nether-
per cent to Frankfurt in the period 2010- Amsterdam-Brussels-Paris route. Based
lands to relevant destinations 2010 and 2020.
2020. However, the total amount of on the assumptions and insights of 1994
journeys to Frankfurt is small compared   2010 2020 for example, this means a transfer of 0.9
to the other two cities (destinations). – 1.7 million passengers from airplane to
Remarkably, growth on the market to Brussels 1,149,868 1,409,224 HST.
London, as estimated by Intraplan (Table Paris 1,692,644 2,166,970
2), is only minor. The growth in journeys On the route to Cologne and Frankfurt,
has probably already been realized in Frankfurt 70,518 100,208 the potential for substitution is much
the period prior to 2010, or the model weaker. Intraplan (2003) estimates a 16
London 541,168 539,224
parameters need to be updated. per cent substitution on the Amsterdam-
Paris-Brussels-London route.
Air passenger flows to and from Schiphol Total 3,454,198 4,215,626
airport have been estimated for four Total all     Using a logistic regression model
future scenarios. These scenarios reflect international 9,675,810 12,933,122 (MuConsult 2007) based on recent
developments in national and international relations reported correlations between travel
policies aimed at the air market, Source: Intraplan 2003 time and market share (see figure 2)
economic, demographic and Table 3: Market shares before and after introduction of the HST on routes where both modes
technological trends, and the are in competition with each
supply of infrastructure for TGV Sud-Est AVE Madrid-Seville other, we have estimated
2020 and 2040 (CPB 2006, the potential substitution
Before After Before After
CPB et al 2006). on the Amsterdam-Paris,
Airplane 31% 7% 40% 13% Amsterdam-London and
Figure 1 (Appendix) shows the Amsterdam-Brussels routes
amount of air journeys to and Train 40% 72% 16% 51%
for 2020 (see table 5). This
from Schiphol airport for 2003 Car & Bus 29% 21% 44% 36% results in a total of 1.6
and 2020 according to the million potential passengers
Source: Wardman et al 2003
different scenarios, on markets to substitute from airplane
to Paris, Frankfurt and Table 4: Estimates of substitution Air-HST to HST in 2020. The
London. The city pair amount of flights that
Research Potential substitution Horizon
Amsterdam-Frankfurt can be reduced on
16%-40% (Paris, London,
is marginal compared IEE 1993 2015 Schiphol airport in 2020
to Amsterdam-London: 26% -40% (Paris, London, would be about 16,000
four million journeys in HSS 1993 Frankfurt)
per year (assuming
2003, increasing to 6.0 HSL Zuid 1994 24%-26% (corridor) 2003 100 passengers per
and 7.5 million journeys flight). This means
depending the scenario. HST Oost 1996 6-8% (corridor) 2015 a total reduction of
The Amsterdam- HST Oost 2000 1-4 % (corridor) 2020 approximately 2.5 per
Paris market takes an cent of all flights that
intermediate position. HST Noordoost 1998 1-28% (corridor) 2010 will be handled in 2020.
Remarkable to notice is Source: several Dutch studies
the growth of the origin- For the Amsterdam-
destination (O-D) market in all scenarios. On Table 5: Potential substitution Frankfurt route, no substitution is expected
the Paris-Amsterdam market, the share of O-D Air-HST in 2020 to and from since travel time will not change. See figure 2,
Schiphol airport (in journeys)
journeys will increase from 25 per cent to 36 where the relation market share train-air and
per cent (+11 per cent) in the Global Economy travel time train is shown (Appendix).
Brussels 125,671
scenario, and even to 65 per cent (+40 per
cent) in the Regional Communities scenario. Paris 299,351 About the Author
Frankfurt is a major hub and will continue to Peter Jorritsma (1957) studied Traffic Engeneering
be so in the future. On the Amsterdam-London London 1,152,092 and Geography. Currently he is senior researcher at
market, the share of O-D traffic is already high Total the KiM Netherlands Institute for Transport Policy
Analysis of the Dutch Ministry of Transport in The
and shows a continuous growth as well: +7 to
Hague, The Netherlands. To contact Peter Jorritsma:
+19 per cent. peter.jorritsma@minvenw.nl

Observed and Estimated Substitution References

Table 3 presents the market shares of airplane, train and car/ Barron de Angoti, I. (2007). High Speed Rail: The Big Picture.
coach before and after introducing a high-speed service on International Railway Association (UIC).
the routes Madrid–Seville (AVE) and Paris-Lyons (TGV Sud- CPB et al., 2006. Welvaart en leefomgeving, een scenariostudie voor
Est). The modal split has since then changed significantly, and Nederland in 2040. Den Haag.
substitution from airplane to HST is substantial. CPB, 2006. Uitgangspunten voor luchtvaartscenario’s 2020 en
In the past, in several Dutch ex-ante modeling studies, Eisenkopf (2006). Competition between Low Cost Carriers and
estimates have been made for potential substitution from Railways in Germany.
airplane to HST (see table 4). The figures show in particular INTRAPLAN, IMTrans, INRETS (2003). Passenger Traffic Study

Competition for Short Haul Air Routes. Eurocontroll Experimental Centre. Insti
Transport Studies, University of Leeds, UK.

2010/2020. Final Report. On behalf of the International Appendix
Union of Railways (UIC). Figure 1: Journeys on routes from Schiphol Airport to Frankfurt, Paris and Lond
Figure 1: Journeys on routes from Schiphol Airport to Frankfurt, Paris and London
MuConsult (2007). and scenario
Substitutiemogelijkheden by relation different
and scenario scenarios,
different 2003
scenarios, andand
2003 2020
luchtverkeer. Achtergrondrapportage. In opdracht van het
Kennisinstituut voor Mobiliteitsbeleid. Amersfoort.
NS Internationaal (2007). Gegevens aangeleverd ten
behoeve van Onderzoek internationale treindiensten 2.500.000
Benelux. Brief aan Tweede Kamer, Kamerstuk br. 0701569.
Den Haag.
Significance en SEO (2007). Effecten van verschillende 1.500.000
heffingsvarianten op de Nederlandse luchtvaart. In opdracht 1.000.000
van het Ministerie van Financiën, het Ministerie van Verkeer
en Waterstaat en het Ministerie van Volkshuisvesting,
Ruimtelijke Ordening en Milieubeheer. Leiden. 0
Steer Davies Gleave (2006). Air and rail competition 2003 GE SE TM RC
and complementarity, Final report. Prepared for European
O-D AMS-world via Frankfurt Frankfurt- world via AMS
Commission DG TREN. London.
UIC, International Union of Railways (2008). http://
Wardman, M., A. Bristow, J.Toner, G. Tweddle (2002).
Review of Research Relevant to Rail Competition for 2.500.000
Short Haul Air Routes. Eurocontroll Experimental Centre. 2.000.000
Institute of Transport Studies, University of Leeds, UK.
Photo credit page 2: Courtesy of Deutschen Bahn AG.

Photo 2: Just as the Russians, the Americans also experi-
mented with jet powered trains. This a former diesel com- 0
2003 GE SE TM RC
muter coach, with two General Electric J-47-19 jet engines
on top, on one of its test drives in 1966. No photographic O-D AMS-world via Paris Paris- world via AMS
source has been found.

2003 GE SE TM RC
Figure 2: : Relation market share train-air and travel time train.
O-D AMS-world via London London- world via AMS

Figure 2: Relation market share train-airAandeel
and travel
alstime train.
functie reistijd Logistic

1,00 0,97

Aandeel Trein tov Vliegtuig


0,69 0,68

0,62 0,62


0,44 0,45

0,40 0,38


0,20 0,18


0,00 100,00 200,00 300,00 400,00 500,00
Reistijd in minuten
The estimated model has a fit with R2 =0,81 and has the following equation: Y
= (b0.b1^X + 1)-1, with: Y= share train, X= travel time train in minutes, b0 =
0,031 and 1 = 1,016

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