EUROCONTROL paper calls for balanced transport investment policy between air and rail for short haul

    EUROCONTROL Aviation Sustainability Unit published (03-Jun-2021) a ‘Think Paper’ on the balance between air and rail for short haul travel. The paper argues transport investment should therefore be carefully balanced between both industries, particularly as aviation decarbonisation will benefit all aviation distance ranges all over Europe, whereas HSR can only realistically impact shorter distances. Key findings include:

    • High-speed rail (HSR) has the greatest potential to replace air in the below 500km category, but this segment, while responsible for 24.1% of European flights, only accounts for 3.8% of aviation emissions – and for geographical reasons, not all of this saving is achievable;
    • In the 500km-1000km sector HSR has much less ability to substitute successfully for air. By the time it takes to put new HSR infrastructure into operation (18-26 years on average), aviation will be well on track towards reaching net zero emissions by 2050 on its own, in particular with upscaled sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) use, and new propulsion technologies;
    • Studies proposing an air-rail shift underestimate or fail to factor in the significant economic and environmental impacts that a massive expansion of HSR lines would entail, including total lifecycle emissions;
    • Even if the 10,000km of envisaged new HSR lines were to be built, HSR will still not be able to match air in terms of connectivity, despite a potential infrastructure investment of around EUR250 billion. Multimodal solutions that combine air and rail are highly attractive in terms of optimising sustainability and improving connectivity, particularly in dense metropolitan areas where HSR infrastructure is already in place. [more – original PR]
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