Modal Share before and after the Introduction of a High Speed Train

Modal Share before and after the Introduction of a High Speed Train

Source: International Union of Railways.

High speed trains can compete effectively with air transport over average distances, as they tend to be cheaper, more comfortable but also overall faster. Travel time to the airport, check in and check out times must also be considered in the total amount of time for air transport. Unlike air transport, train are less stringent on security measures which can be perceived as less inconvenient. As airports tend to be located at the periphery of cities, a significant amount of time must be spent to access them. Train stations tend to be located in central areas and are therefore generally more accessible.

The Spanish cities of Madrid and Seville are 471 kilometers apart. Prior to the introduction of a high speed train service, called AVE (Alta Velocidad Espanola), air transport accounted for 67% of the intercity market share. Introduced in 1992, the speed and convenience of the new train service was able to get a 83.6% market share, up from 33% with the regular train service. Travel times were reduced from 6 hours to 2 hours and 15 minutes.

A similar impact was observed between Paris and Brussels after the introduction of the high speed rail service (Thalys), which are 320 km apart. The share of rail increased to 50% of the passenger flows while the share of the automobile declined substantially.