How Fast Are Rail Trips Between EU Cities and Is Rail Faster Than Air?

This paper analyses rail speed on a set of 1 356 routes between medium and large EU cities located less than 500 km apart. On only 3 % of routes between these cities do rail speeds exceed 150 km/h and on 30 % of routes the speed is below 60 km/h. Rail speeds tend to be lower and more connections are missing in eastern EU Member States and on cross-border routes. Out of 297 routes, served by both rail and a direct flight, the rail trip is faster on 68 of the routes. Improving operating speed to 160 km/h on the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) core would increase this to 103. Operating speeds of around 175 km/h appear to be sufficient for rail-based trips to consistently outperform air trips on distances up to 500 km, but this is only necessary for longer trips. A switch of air passengers to rail on routes where rail is faster would lead to a 17 % reduction in the total amount of CO₂ emissions from air trips on the 297 routes analysed, and a 4.2 % decrease in passenger travel time on these routes. If the speed on the TEN-T core network were to be improved, as proposed by the European Commission, such a modal switch would reduce CO₂ emissions on these routes by 25 % and travel times would decrease by 6 %. Such a modal switch would, however, require more than improvements in travel time alone and should consider issues such as cost, convenience, comfort and connecting flights.

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  • Supplemental Notes:
    • © European Union, 2023. Publication date on the EU website is 2023.
  • Corporate Authors:

    Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (European Commission)

  • Authors:
  • Publication Date: 2023-3


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Maps; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 32p

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Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01885713
  • Record Type: Publication
  • ISBN: 9789268002858
  • Report/Paper Numbers: WP 03/2023
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jun 22 2023 9:49AM