The White Paper on Transport published in 2011 ‘Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system’
) encompasses a series of measures in order to enhance transport efficiency with the strategic objective of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of transport by 60 per cent in the long term.
A strong reduction of transport-related GHG emissions is in fact needed to comply with the Union’s overall strategic objective of squeezing GHG emission by 80-95 per cent by 2050. This objective is coupled with the need to decrease dependency on fossil fuels (and energy imports) of the Union. Transport depends on oil for about 96 per cent of its energy needs and, as a sector, accounts for almost 90 per cent of the projected increase in global oil use.
In any case, the White Paper vision goes well beyond mere energy and environmental sustainability towards a full exploitation of the internal market and efficiency gains of the EU transport sector.The TEN-T Network targets
The role and characteristics of high-speed rail have been detailed and enhanced by the proposal for a revised TEN-T Network (http://ec.europa.eu/transport/infrastructure/revision-t_en.htm
). Within this framework, high-speed rail has an important role to play, as shown by the specific targets directly or indirectly defining high-speed rail development:
- Triple the length of the existing high-speed rail network in order to ensure, by 2050, that the majority of medium-distance passenger transport should go by rail
- Deploy a fully functional and EU-wide multimodal TEN-T ‘core network’ by 2030, provided with the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), thus allowing for a seamless flow through interoperable connections between national networks, evolving towards an ‘EU-wide Metro’ (Fig. 1)
- By 2020, establish the framework for a European multimodal transport information, management and payment system, thus fully integrating different modes of transport (notably air and high speed)
- By 2050, the largest core network airports have to be connected to the TEN-T rail network (thus paving the way for high-speed to act as range-extension of hubs’ catchment area).
This strategic direction favours European technology (high-speed rail, coupled with the EU’s – and now world-wide – standard for signalling and control – ERTMS-ETCS), that, as for GSM is boosting an industrial sector within the internal market and beyond.
Of course the EU added value generated by a large-scale, cross-border high-speed network goes well beyond the development of the EU transport industry:
- In fact, high-speed rail aims at significantly contributing to attain the White Paper’s strategic objective of reduction of GHG, not only for the possibility of diversifying the electricity mix that feeds the system, and for the efficiency of medium tension technology (notably, but not only, 25kV), but also for its high performance throughout the life cycle ‘from tank to wheel’ (i.e. from the electric power from the power station to the train) (Ref. 1).
- In addition, the share of electricity from renewable energy sources is expected to increase over time due to the current Energy- Climate packages; at the same time, the efficiency of traditional power generation will reduce the power carbon footprint, thus making electricity-powered modes of transport even less CO2 intensive; this pleads, in turn, for a wider scope for High Speed, which would also decrease EU dependency on energy import.
- In analogy to what happened at the dawn of the US Federal State, high-speed railways are one of the most valuable transport assets in order to overcome former national borders and thus benefit from the continental dimension of the European Union and the internal market.
So far, a variety of models have led to successful high-speed rail networks – for example:
has started developing a radial network from the large metropolitan area of Paris, then creating a by-pass to interconnect other nodes linking them to the main airport hub (Paris CDG) and to the metropolitan system, and is currently interconnecting the main nodes though 300 - 350km/h maximum speed lines, which are then connected to other nodes though interoperable services running on the conventional network.
The French scheme therefore widens the scope for high-speed services, with good
performances: in spite of the success of regional express services (‘TER’), notably for commuters, the TGV alone has a 60 per cent
share of rail passenger transport in France.
Undoubtedly, the TGV is a success story, constituting the main asset of SNCF; highspeed services have changed the French transport pattern, enhancing internal and international mobility in the ‘hexagone’ as well as the attractiveness of the nation, totalling more than 50 million passengers/year; with total household expenditure for transport averaging €2500 per head, high-speed-related revenues can be estimated between one-two per cent of French GDP.
, high-speed rail development has been led by a regional development
perspective, initially according to a radial model (Madrid – Andalucia, Madrid – Barcelona, Madrid-Valencia and Madrid – Valladolid on the way to the Basque country), and has rapidly grown, becoming the first in Europe by extension.
Growth in passenger traffic has been limited by the barriers to interoperability with the conventional network (differences in gauge, electrification and signalling), in spite of the technological breakthrough that has taken place with the gauge-changing Talgo and CAF trains.
On the other hand, the Spanish high-speed network, developed as a greenfield project, has adopted up-to-date EU interoperable standards, and is therefore connecting the Iberian Peninsula railways with the rest of Europe.
According to the geographical structure of Spain, (characterised by few, distant nodes), the Spanish network is suitable for very high speed (350km/h, with the highest EU commercial speed – 299km/h, recorded on the Madrid-Valencia line), and in ten years has increased its share on rail transport from ten to 50 per cent.
It is worth highlighting that, in spite of the very difficult morphology, the network has been built in a relatively short time and guaranteeing a good cost control, thanks to a mix of administrative capacity and strength/know-how which has grown over time in the construction sector.
, the high-speed rail network stretches along a single linear structure connecting its main urban nodes (Turin, Milan, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Naples, plus Salerno); its first year of provisional operations recorded 20 million passengers – and is now open to competition with the first private competitor on the national network: NTV SpA (20 per cent SNCF ownership).
High-speed rail has been one of the biggest triggering factors for Italian railways, which have transformed their EBITA from some €2 billion losses to €1.8 billion profits last year.
The network suits a 300 - 350km/h maximum speed, and is being completely split off from the conventional network with important investments in urban nodes (notably in Bologna and Florence, which will be crossed at high speed by the direct Milan-Rome services in ad hoc tunnels) – it also includes the Apennine crossing (Bologna-Florence) which includes over 70km of tunnels.Germany
opted for a lower – but still remarkable – maximum speed (250km/h except for two stretches), which better suits a denser network and which suits the geographical distribution of its important urban nodes, notably in the north-western regions, where it leads to the Dutch, Belgian and French networks (with different standards of electrification and signalling); Frankfurt airport is successfully linked to the network, with more than 2.5 million passengers benefiting from the connection.
Similar to the case of France, high-speed trains run along the national ‘conventional’ network as well as the HS network – but performances between the two systems are on average closer than in the French, and, notably, the Spanish case (besides, the two networks share the same electrification system, whereas in southern France the network is electrified
at 1.5kV DC).
Cross-border high speed lines already in operation belong to the PBKAL TEN-T Priority project (Paris-Brussels-Cologne-Amsterdam-London), and are operated by Thalys (de facto a joint stock company created by the incumbents), Eurostar or directly by the incumbents. So far competition has been very limited, as well as interoperability: Thalys had to incorporate seven different signalling and control systems to run on the different
A lesson that can be drawn by the different examples is that high-speed lines connecting the most important urban nodes of large countries/neighbouring countries provide an interesting business opportunity for railway operators, which sometimes undergo large investments (notably on rolling stocks and systems). These connections, suiting, among others, the business sector, provide a wealth of resources to railway undertakings, allowing them to formulate strategic development plans that would otherwise require an intensive use of public subsidies.Key features and potential
Different features shape the high-speed networks and influence the services provided. These are notably:
There is no clear-cut answer. The technology allows for much higher speed than the one commonly adopted (up to almost 600km/h), similar to Maglev limits (Ref. 2); the choice depends on energy costs, the use of the line (just for high-speed services or mixed), coupled with the signalling and control systems, as well as the structure of the network.
With the current high-speed rolling stock, it seems that a 200km distance (or more) between stops is needed to exploit the line at 300 - 350km/h maximum speed
Finally, tilting trains designed to run at 200km/h on various sections of conventional lines in spite of reduced radius (less than 3km) allow the provision of high-speed or quasi-high-speed services on the main lines of conventional networks in various
Member States.The key element of nodes
: approaching or crossing an important node is generally time consuming, in particular, if the train has to come to a stop. Furthermore, these stations are seldom situated in the core urban area. For secondary nodes, safeguarding the commercial speed and limiting investment costs often means that the line may be some kilometres away from the station, therefore, additional connections are needed to reach these centres.
Time savings arising from direct services through high-speed tunnels or efficient urban by-passes can be bigger than those arising from an increase in the maximum speed. In addition, such infrastructure provides for a full separation of flows between high speed and conventional rail services.
Therefore, greater attention is paid over time to these urban crossing structures and in developing drive-through stations (and notably underground stations) which become interconnecting points for conventional railway and local public transport.
Integrating high-speed rail with air transport has been so far quite neglected
: clearly, high speed competes with air transport on secondary nodes, but it enlarges by far the catchment area of hubs: Frankfurt, Schiphol, Paris Charles de Gaulle (and soon Brussels-Zaventem) are examples of successful integration with combined ticketing in place.Integration within the conventional network
, whenever possible, provides a higher flexibility of services, anticipate the development of a dedicated network attracting new demand and opens up high-speed business to medium-size nodes.The potential of high speed for freight has so far been unexploited
, with the exception of postal services (in France) The use of high-speed rail for parcel services and or the fresh/cold chain remains so far in the field of research/pilot projects (e.g.: CarEx, http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euro_Carex
The way forward: connect & enhance co-operation, standardise, compete, innovate
To unleash the potential of high speed rail at a continental level further steps are needed:1. Connect and enhance co-operation:
So far the EU High Speed network only exists in a few countries (Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, UK-limited to HS1, and The Netherlands) and national networks still lack interconnections (except through Belgium and the Channel Tunnel). Bridging the gaps will require an enhanced co-operation by national network managers to mutually optimise
Besides, high speed is still poorly connected to other modes of transport: only three major airports (Paris Charles de Gaulle, Schiphol and Frankfurt) are actually served by high speed services directly, while many metropolitan nodes are connected to high-speed rail by termini only.2. Standardisation
and speeding up the deployment of the single EU signalling and control system – ERTMS/ETCS – with a single EU homologation would lead to important savings (€500,000 to €1 million per network per train) and reduce the time-to-market for rolling stock, thus increasing the return for investment for high speed – similarly, an EU-wide network would call for a further industrialisation of rolling stock which would provide for investment savings.
On signalling alone, the Spanish choice of opting for a large-scale setting of ERTMS level 2 can be assumed to be a success story, reducing fixed investments and optimising the network’s capacity.3. Bring about competition
: so far competition is limited on few cases of mutual services by the incumbents of the neighbouring networks, a potential launch of services across the Channel Tunnel, and on the Italian high speed network.
There is room for improvement – often incumbents find it easier to adapt their structure and the services provided gradually and marginally and are satisfied by reaching a small but highly profitable market share, rather than reaching the maximum intra-modal share for high-speed.
: New high-speed trains will be lighter (a 30 per cent reduction in weight/passenger is expected in the medium terms, thus allowing a substantial reduction of energy costs.
Similarly, new models of diffused propulsion can increase acceleration thus reducing the commercial speed and widening the competitiveness of the most comfortable transport technology for passenger.
Finally, the potential of high-speed technologies in the field of freight transport still remains confined to the domain of research – further integration between modes is needed to make further progress.zzReferencesRef. 1:
For example: 1) Research on greenhouse emission directly and indirectly linked to high-speed rail for the Swedish network: http://www.kth.se/polopoly_fs/1.48172!GT%20Energy%20consumption%20slutl.pdf;
2) A similar study from Spain (quite interesting since Spain has a carbon intensity of the electricity mix which is quite similar to the EU average http://www.vialibre-ffe.com/PDF/Comparacion_consumo_AV_otros_modos_VE_1_08.pdf
3) The carbon footprint (‘bilan carbonne’) of HSR TGV Rhin-Rhône http://www.rff.fr/IMG/Bilan-Carbone-LGV-RR.pdf
Currently, the world speed record is set at 574.8km/h (357.2mph), achieved in 2007 on the new high-speed Paris-Strasbourg line (LGV Est – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGV_Est
This article represents only the opinion of the author and does not prejudice the official position of the European Commission.
Carlo De Grandis is policy co-ordinator in the Directorate General for Mobility & Transport at the European Commission