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The impact of high-speed rail and low-cost carriers on European air passenger traffic


  • Clewlow, Regina R.
  • Sussman, Joseph M.
  • Balakrishnan, Hamsa


The expansion of high-speed passenger rail service is often argued as a potentially effective, lower-carbon substitute for intercity air travel. Previous studies on the impact of high-speed rail on air travel in Europe and Asia have primarily examined the impact of travel time and price on market share for a specific city pair (or a handful of city pairs). There has been little focus on the extent to which high-speed rail (HSR) has reduced total short-haul air travel demand (versus market share), or on the potential impacts of high-speed rail on system-wide air travel demand. This paper presents an empirical, econometric analysis of air travel demand in Europe, utilizing an expanded data set to explore: (1) the impact of rail travel times, population density, and market characteristics on air traffic; and (2) the impact of high-speed rail and low-cost-carriers on system-wide air traffic. Although improvements in rail travel times have resulted in reductions in short-haul air travel, variations in city and airport characteristics significantly influence the substitution between air and rail. This paper also finds that HSR substitution has resulted in a modest reduction in system-wide air travel demand, whereas the expansion of low-cost carriers has led to a significant increase in total European air traffic. As concerns about the climate impacts of transportation grow, these results have significant implications for future transport and energy policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Clewlow, Regina R. & Sussman, Joseph M. & Balakrishnan, Hamsa, 2014. "The impact of high-speed rail and low-cost carriers on European air passenger traffic," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 136-143.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:trapol:v:33:y:2014:i:c:p:136-143
    DOI: 10.1016/j.tranpol.2014.01.015

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    6. Frédéric Dobruszkes, 2011. "High-speed rail and air transport competition in Western Europe: A supply-oriented perspective," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/96164, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    7. Niven Winchester & Christoph Wollersheim & Regina Clewlow & Nicolas C. Jost & Sergey Paltsev & John M. Reilly & Ian A. Waitz, 2013. "The Impact of Climate Policy on US Aviation," Journal of Transport Economics and Policy, University of Bath, vol. 47(1), pages 1-15, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:trapol:v:68:y:2018:i:c:p:178-191 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:eee:juipol:v:47:y:2017:i:c:p:12-17 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Wan, Yulai & Ha, Hun-Koo & Yoshida, Yuichiro & Zhang, Anming, 2016. "Airlines’ reaction to high-speed rail entries: Empirical study of the Northeast Asian market," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 532-557.
    4. Fabian Gabelberger, 2017. "Competition and Cooperation in High-speed Rail and Air Traffic. Intermodal Travel in Europe and Perspectives for Austria," WIFO Monatsberichte (monthly reports), WIFO, vol. 90(3), pages 193-204, March.
    5. repec:eee:transa:v:108:y:2018:i:c:p:35-44 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:eee:transa:v:100:y:2017:i:c:p:105-120 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Xia, Wenyi & Zhang, Anming, 2016. "High-speed rail and air transport competition and cooperation: A vertical differentiation approach," Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 456-481.


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