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How does high-speed Rail travel compare with Air travel?  
1 Answers
Aug 31 2011 (12:10PM)

Entry# 708     
How does high-speed Rail travel compare with Air travel?

Aug 31 2011 (11:59AM)
News Entry# 36320  High-speed rail: a threat to aviation in Australia?  
Posted by: rdb*^   Added by: rdb*^  Aug 31 2011 (12:10PM)
At a high-speed rail conference in Sydney yesterday, Newcastle Airport’s David Nye represented the aviation industry.
Nye pointed out that HSR would be something of a double-edged sword, delivering business to some airports while threatening others.
Here’s some of what he had to say:
“The advent of the TGV in France was the first time that a train service had been able to compete
with air travel on a point to point basis. Previous high-yielding trunk routes for Air France between cities such as Lyon and Paris became TGV territory and this expanded across France and into neighbouring Belgium, Holland, etc. “Air France’s domestic network literally halved overnight. For city centre to city centre journeys the train became king in the ‘90s. What used to be a vital mode of transport for accessing airports was fast becoming a major competitor to the airlines of Europe. Spacious seating, work areas, mobile phones, decent food – some would argue, and competitive pricing… 
“Eurostar made its entry to the UK market once the Channel Tunnel link was open in 1994. Unable to initially match the speed of its French counterpart, nevertheless it didn’t take long for the sky-to-rails migration to begin, with London to Paris and Brussels soon seeing a significant market share as the networks improved in the year 2000 and beyond. London to Paris air capacity peaked in 2003 at 2.85 million passengers per annum. In 2010 this figure had dropped 42 per cent to 1.85 million… 
“In Europe it’s safe to say two things have happened as a result of the high speed rail revolution – low cost airlines now fly to many of the regional ports that the major carriers no longer serve. They can do this by operating at a very low cost base and offering cheaper airfares than traditional carriers. The other effect is that of hubbing - using the extensive rail network to increase the catchment area of an airport. There are no flights any longer between Brussels and Paris, but the TGV brings passengers from Brussels or other domestic cities direct to the heart of Charles de Gaulle some 50 metres from check in… 
“The Madrid-Barcelona air route was the busiest in Europe with almost 1000 flights per week… Since the AVE line opened in February 2008, reducing the time to two hours and 40 minutes, the airlines began to reduce capacity and subsequently over 1.7 million passengers have been lost from the air travel market. A similar story can be told for services between Madrid and Valencia, which has lost over 50 per cent of its seat capacity since December 2010…
“So a little bit closer to home - in Australia the tyranny of distance has led the aircraft to be king, never more so than since the turn of the century when the introduction of low cost airlines meant interstate travel became much more affordable to the everyday Australian. In 2000, 25 million passengers travelled domestically compared to 47 million in 2010, so a huge increase. With two of the busiest air routes in the world, Melbourne-Sydney and Brisbane-Sydney, the market continues to grow and air travel is now considered as straightforward as getting on a bus, or indeed a train. 
“Looking at the impact  of high speed rail in other intense aviation markets such as China and Spain, it is inevitable that the domestic air market (in Australia) would contract providing that the alternatives are both quick, reliable and of course cost effective.
“Trains can be considered more reliable as they are not subject to weather or traffic delays in most cases. They tend to be more city-to-city centre focused. If you look at the proposed route for the east coast high speed rail it goes without saying the key routes such as…Melbourne-Sydney and Sydney-Brisbane; Sydney-Canberra will be hard hit…
“Great access is created on one hand but it also takes away your traffic. Newcastle Airport, for example, could gain a quick and efficient link to Sydney increasing its catchment further, but if the train continued to Brisbane – Newcastle’s most popular air route – we would potentially lose a major chunk of our Queensland market.”
Interestingly, the consensus at the conference seemed to be that any HSR project in Australia would be limited by affordability; and that, at most we might see such infrastructure servicing Newcastle-Sydney-Canberra.
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