Spanish lesson for high-speed rail
The debate around the economic viability of Britain’s proposed £33 billion High Speed 2 railway between London, Birmingham Manchester and Leeds could be further fuelled by a new report on the failure of the Madrid-Barcelona high-speed line to compete effectively with air travel.
Writing in the latest issue (165 TR2) of the ICE Transport journal, lead author Andrés Lopéz Pita of the Technical University of Catalonia says the high-speed line between Madrid and Barcelona has only achieved a 50% market share compared with over 70% experienced on similar routes in Europe, such as London-Paris and Madrid-Seville.
Prior to the 620 km Madrid-Barcelona high-speed line opening in 2008, the overhead air corridor was the busiest in Europe with 4.8 million people taking the 1 h flight each year. The new 2.5 h rail journey boosted the railway’s share from 12% to 32% in a month, but it has since struggled to get above 50%.
According to Pita, ‘The air-rail modal split curve, deduced from European experience, provides a market share for the overland mode of nearly 74%, which far removed from the figures actually obtained,’ he says. ‘Consequently, on consolidated air routes with heavy traffic, it is necessary to carry out specific demand analysis rather than simply extrapolate the rules of good practice.’
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