Rail Travel Worldwide - December 2011
This report focuses on intercity rail travel in the major markets of the world, including Africa (Egypt, South Africa); Asia Pacific (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea); Europe (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, the UK, Ukraine) and North America (the US), with a particular emphasis on high-speed trains. Other topics treated include rail distribution, rail tours and packages, competition with other forms of transport, rail technology and the environmental advantages of rail travel over other forms of transport.
Some key findings from the report include:
- Japan, France, Spain, China and South Korea lead the world in terms of high-speed rail travel. Meanwhile, major countries including India, the UK and the US, in particular, are notable laggards in terms of high-speed rail development.
- Spain will see the fastest growth in its high-speed rail network of any European country over the coming decade. Major expansion of high-speed services is also going forward in the west of France.
- The six Japanese passenger train operators are highly vertically integrated, often including: other forms of transport services such as bus and ferry operations; railway station development; railcar and infrastructure manufacturing; travel agencies; food and beverage retailing; department stores and even noodle production. It is questionable as to whether such structures are sustainable, given the precarious financial position of several of the groups, especially the ones operating outside the main population centres on the country’s principal island of Honshu.
- Rail travel is becoming increasingly competitive with air travel and road transport. Rail routes of four hours and less are generally considered to be highly competitive with flights. As trains achieve higher and higher speeds, they can even compete with air travel on routes of up to 1,200km.
- The airlines are set to lose substantial share to rail in China (for example Beijing–Shanghai), in Western Europe (for example Frankfurt–London) and in the Northeast Corridor (NEC) of the US over the next decade.
- UK train fares are 20-30% higher than comparable fares in Continental Europe and the rail-travel market suffers from severe fragmentation due to there being some 20 competing operators, which are, for the most part, private-sector franchises.
- Russian rail travel is losing share to travel by air and coach, due to a reduction in barriers to the importation of aircraft and motor vehicle, as well as to less loose regulation of air and bus fares, as compared to rail-ticket prices.
- The European Commission has approved standards for the setting up of a single rail-ticket reservation system for Europe. This will allow ticket reservation system and travel details to be standardised, thus facilitating the exchange of information between railway companies and distributors.
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