The latest EUROCONTROL Think Paper, which assesses the extent to which a shift from air to rail is feasible for travel below 1,000 km; where there are natural complementarities between the two industries; what impact such a shift would have in terms of reducing total transport emissions; and what environmental, economic and societal implications this would have.
Using EUROCONTROL aviation data and analysis, the 11th in our series of thought-provoking Think Papers concludes that transportation decarbonisation is more complex than simply planning to shift to rail for travel below 1,000 km.
Such a shift, we find, would achieve only limited emissions savings while generating a range of drawbacks including a high total cost; a long lead time, resulting in new lines potentially entering into operation after aviation decarbonisation has started to deliver the full gains from upscaled Sustainable Aviation Fuel use and innovative propulsion technologies; and entailing significant economic and environmental downsides without being able to match the connectivity air provides.
However, while we conclude that rail cannot effectively substitute for air, we do find that multimodal solutions that combine air and rail are highly attractive in terms of optimising sustainability and improving connectivity.
We therefore argue that transport investment should be balanced between both industries, building on natural complementarities and working towards the transport industry’s emissions reduction goals, making the optimal solution more “plane and train” rather than “plane vs train”.
You can read the complete paper here: How can we get the balance right between plane and train?