High-speed railway (HSR) links across Europe provide high-capacity
transport between large metropolitan centres. This is alleviating the
congestion and environmental problems of road and air links along the same
routes. However, the efficiency and attractiveness of such systems, which
produce massive departures and arrivals of passengers at fixed intervals,
depend on their ability to offer complementary transport services for
connection to and from the terminals. In order to ensure that HSR systems
address the requirements of the door-to-door transport chain, users' needs
and travel patterns must be understood.
HSR-COMET aimed to provide a comprehensive analysis of demand for
high-speed rail services, particularly concerning the needs for modal
interconnection at HSR terminals, in order to guide further research and
policy action in this area.
From on-site surveys in France, Germany and Italy, HSR-COMET identified the principal characteristics of transport demand. There is significant variation between Member States. For example, in Italy and Germany professionals and managers account for around 50% of passengers, whereas in France two-thirds of users are not in this category. In Italy, more than half the trips are for business purposes, whereas private trips form the majority in France and Germany. In Germany, the average trip length ranges from 95 km to 265 km according to trip purpose, whereas in Italy and France the average trip is considerably longer - 465 km in France, while more than 70% of trips in Italy exceed 300 km.
Average trip frequencies by HSR are higher than by standard rail services, showing their importance in attracting passengers from other modes. In Italy, over half the passengers make more than 5 trips per year. This figure drops to around 20% in France.
Typically one-third of connection trips to and from the terminal are by private car (including 'kiss-and -ride'), one-third by public transport, and roughly 15% each, by taxi and walking.
The project developed a multi-criteria evaluation tool to identify the priorities for improvements in the transport services to and from terminals. An increase in the frequency of metro services during HSR peak periods (where available) emerged as a strong candidate. Preferential access for taxis also scored reasonably well, as did the integration of taxi tariffs with train fares (for example by joint ticketing). In addition, there seems to be a potential market for a special taxi or minibus service specifically dedicated to meeting the needs of HSR users.
HSR-COMET concluded that the promotion of high-speed rail needs improvements in the transport connections to and from the terminal and in the customer services available in the terminal. Since cars are the most significant means of access, policies should aim to address the environmental and congestion effects without discouraging travellers. This could mean greater provision of short-term parking spaces for drop-off and pick-up, or a good park-and-ride system. Taxis should also be promoted, with preferential fast close access to trains.
Terminals should provide high-quality basic services, since most passengers spend relatively little time there. (Indeed, the quality and variety of services on board the train are arguably more important, given the length of HSR trips.) Improvements are needed to speed up transit through the terminal and advise the passenger on what to do. These include:
- integration of pricing systems between local transport services and HSR;
- reservation systems (e.g. to book train and taxi);
- timetables that facilitate making connections;
- complete travel information on the trip to the final destination;
- simple improvements such as clear and visible signs.