A review of HSR experiences around the world
High Speed Railways (HSR) is currently regarded as one of the most significant technological breakthroughs in passenger transportation developed in the second half of the 20th century. At the beginning of 2008 there were about 10,000 kilometres of new high speed lines in operation around the world and, in total (including upgraded conventional tracks), more than 20,000 kilometres of the worldwide rail network was devoted to provide high speed services to passengers willing to pay for a lower travel time and a quality improvement in rail transport. However, building, maintaining and operating HSR lines is expensive, involves a significant amount of sunk costs and may substantially compromise both the transport policy of a country and the development of its transport sector for decades. For these reasons it deserves a closer look, well beyond the technological hype and the demand figures. The main objective of this paper is to discuss some characteristics of the HSR services from an economic viewpoint, while simultaneously developing an empirical framework that help us to understand in more detail the cost and demand sides of this transport alternative. This understanding is especially useful for future projects, since it will lead to a better analysis of the expected construction and operating costs, and of the number of passengers to be carried out under different economic and geographic conditions.
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