Competition, integration, substitution: Myths and realities concerning the relationship between high-speed rail and air transport in Europe
Purpose – This chapter provides a critical discussion of air to rail mode substitution. Environmental impacts, intermodal competition and integration are considered, examining advantages and disadvantages as well as opportunities and constraints.Originality – Both operation and life-cycle analysis perspectives show that high-speed rail (HSR) is much ‘greener’ than air transport (per seat-km or per passenger-km) provided that the former achieves high load factors and the latter lower load factors and that freed runway capacity is not reused. HSR travel time is its main competitive advantage against air transport, and a 600-km flight is arguably the current limit for robust intermodal effects.Findings – The potential for air–HSR integration at the airport relies on various service, business and technical constraints. Even when it is successful, its environmental benefit appears to be marginal, if not negative, if airport capacity is reused for longer flights. In the current context, such integration appears more like a business opportunity for airlines, airports and train operators rather than a sustainable option. Yet the environmental benefit of integration may be larger within potential integrated transport policies.
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