Summary & Prologue
Income-Driven Demand for Air Travel
Air/Rail Modal Split: Competition or Symbiosis?
EU Injections and Priorities
Could Backwardness Offer an Advantage?
An Interim Solution
The International Dimension
Funding & Conclusion

At the turn of 2005/2006 the following paper was sent to the
DG for Energy and Transport in Brussels


A contribution to the Public Consultation
Mid-term review of the White Paper
on the European transport policy for 2010

by Boguslaw Jankowski


The 10 Questions and Initial Objectives
   Environmental impact and external costs
   Integration of transport modes
   Overall conclusion
Looking to the future
   Europe all in one
   Planning well ahead
   The High Level Group report
Overtures to Air-Rail-Road integration
   Technical and economic assumptions
   Two high-speed rail systems
   Speed is the decisive factor
   The cost factor
A model of Air-Rail-Road integration
Answer to Question no. 8

The European Union has done a marvellous job in bringing the people of Europe closer together. In the realm of transport, a number of vital projects have been launched and progressed, to a varying extent, in the past few years.

Halfway between 2001, when the European Commission issued its programmatic White Paper on Transport, and its target year 2010, there is much to be extolled, but not less to be censured, particularly when inspecting the wider scenery.

A poignant contrast comes to view as we go over the 10 Questions of the Mid-term review paper, where major as well as minor achievements loom in the background, while some of the most vital problems are glossed over, including those thrashed out in the White Paper itself.

The 10 Questions and Initial Objectives

Turning to the vital issues which seem to have been relegated to the backyard for the needs of the mid-term review, we must face squarely two of them. To make it quite clear: both are discussed in considerable detail in the White Paper itself.

Environmental impact and external costs

From among the 10 questions, just one (no. 4) mentions "pollution" in passing. In the Initial objectives ...", on the other hand, the pollution issue is treated lightly ("pollution from transport has decreased in recent years" ... "some signs of stabilisation in recent years"). While registering a decline in atmospheric pollution from two groups of substances, the Initial Objectives do not hide the bare facts of the dreadful invasion of poisonous gases, but leave them at that.

Such an approach seems symptomatic, considering that the most recent High Level Group report Networks for Peace and Development (November 2005) devotes just three paragraphs (pp. 26-27) to the "environmental dimension", treated in the most general of terms.

We cannot easily accommodate with this attitude in the light of the 2001 White Paper, where the following environmental problems were given extensive coverage: massive encroachments of the expanding road network (pp. 24-25), aviation as a source of noise and atmospheric pollution (pp. 39-40), the burden of external costs (pp. 71-77), the growing demand for fuel and energy (pp. 82-86). On the other hand, in the White Paper Action Programme there is no mention of environment protection.

Integration of transport modes

Called here A-R-R (Air-Rail-Road integration) for convenience, the entire complex of issues involved is virtually non-existent in either the 10 Questions or in the Initial Objectives (except for a fleeting mention of "alternative modes of transport to the road"). How come that virtually one third (Part One) of the White Paper is blissfully ignored? Clearly, there is no awareness of the need to progress from competition between the modes to their complementarity, on the way to an accomplished symbiosis of the three.

Can there be any doubt that such a harmonious symbiosis would greatly benefit the environment? Four-five years ago, promoting high-speed trains as a substitute to inter-city driving and short-haul flights was one of the favourite ideas of the White Paper, where on p. 38 we read: "We can no longer think of maintaining air links to destinations where there is a competitive high-speed rail alternative" (however loosely expressed, the concept of substitution is there!), and on pp. 51-53 we read of "the ability of high-speed trains to replace air transport" and "integrating the high-speed train network with air transport".

Summing up, eight of the ten questions deal with incidental issues and secondary trends: decline of rail, road transport after enlargement, combined transport, developments in congestion and pollution, road safety, company finances, investments in corridors (by 2020!). And only two questions (nos. 8 & 9) look to the future and offer a broader perspective.

Overall conclusion

The mid-term review is dominated by narrowly conceived issues, in contrast to the 2001 White Paper itself. Marginal or no attention is paid to developments on which depends our survival and welfare:
(1) environment protection, particularly against pollution from road and air traffic;
(2) thorough investigation of external costs (so far rather immeasurable),
(3) complementarity and eventually full integration of three transport modes: Air. Rail and Road, on strictly economic principles.

The White Paper's declared policies of giving priority to railways (p. 13), of monitoring the energy efficiency of transport modes (p. 14), of breaking the link between economic growth and transport growth (p. 14), of improving the modal split (p. 15), and of restructuring the road sector (pp. 25-26), are barely mentioned in the current review material. The implications of the EU enlargement are likewise mostly ignored.

In a word, by its limited choice of issues, the review paper Initial Objectives simply does not do justice to the framework-like nature of the White Paper.

Looking to the future

Europe all in one

The White Paper's integrative approach, as set out in the section "The need for integration of transport in sustainable development" (pp. 14-16), was meant to attain, from 2010 onwards, a shift of balance between the transport modes (p. 15). Pursuing this idea, we conclude that the ultimate goal is wholesale integration, based on a well-balanced pan-European transport network.

The formidable task is compounded by the stepwise enlargement of the Union, a sizeable one recorded in May 2004, and another scheduled for 2007 (Romania and Bulgaria). A corollary of each enlargement is the consolidation of previous acquisitions, however.

"The further expansion of the EU cannot be accomplished, however, without integrating the newly acquired territory, particularly in terms of transport. Like an army that must consolidate its territorial gains, the affluent Western countries must shore up their new possessions and lay firm tracks for their future advances in eastern and south-eastern Europe. Leaving a vacuum anywhere behind the front lines, would spell disaster" (quote from an earlier contribution by the present author, written in March 2005).

By leaving a vacuum behind the advancing front lines, the next offensive is put at risk. Such a vacuum is clearly in evidence on all the charts and maps published in recent years. In the one appended here (Major trans-national axes , from p. 3 of the High Level Group report, Networks for Peace and Development, November 2005) we find the plains of Poland crossed longitudinally by just one red line (rail, bifurcating to Gdansk) and one green line (road). Besides those two, the flat expanses of Poland are crossed latitudinally by two 'old' axes: Berlin - Warsaw - Brest (C2) and Dresden - Katowice - Lviv (C3), each comprising a motorway and an upgraded railway (160 km/h).

Please note that the HLG has in mind two horizons: projects to start before 2010 and those extending beyond 2020. While reaching out to the Mediterranean as well as to the Caucasus and Siberia (!), the HLG seems to assume that those axes will cope with what the bulging EU is likely to generate in terms of traffic (freight and passenger alike) in all those directions over the next 10 to 25 (?) years.

Our reference to the HLG chart is meant to illustrate a trend that seems to dominate the thinking of many EU captains consumed by the desire to expand as quickly as possible, without regard to what is going on behind the front lines.

Planning well ahead

Common sense and centuries of experience tell us that new transport routes (axes, corridors) ought to be planned at least 25 to 30 years ahead, to avoid the plight suffered by the most congested West European countries, where ever new routes have to be added at an exorbitant cost. Imagine how much money could be saved and chagrin spared if the same routes were planned a few decades ago!

The very same thing applies to airports. The planned expansion of Frankfurt Airport by another runway and a third terminal will be extremely costly (€3.3 bn), whereas the resulting dispersion of landside and airside operations will make the outfit even less manageable.

Now imagine something of the same magnitude in a less populated and congested country, like Poland. The cost would be only a fraction of those billions. But in reality, an investment of this size would naturally be planned as a greenfield project, at even lower cost.

The conclusion to be drawn is that whereas the ambitious programme outlined in the White Paper... for 2010 seemed almost unmanageable by its breadth and depth, in the light of our present knowledge it has shrunk to just a modicum. and as such deserves to be superseded by a long-term master plan.

In other words, the White Paper did offer a good start, but the present situation calls for a radical revision (not just 'mid-term review') of the programme, which must now embrace a much longer period, up to 2030.

The High Level Group report

In Networks for Peace and Development (November 2005), the HLG envisions an expansion of "European" transport routes all around the Mediterranean Sea, across Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Sinai, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco (which is also to be reached from the Iberian peninsula), and in addition. to the Caucasus, and right into Siberia, that is, far beyond Europe. Even if this is projected beyond the horizon of 2020, the inevitable conclusion is: too far, too fast—as long as the recent acquisitions have not been consolidated.

There is a lot of evidence that a similar haste overshadows most current debates.

In the same report, the HLG distinguishes between the Northern axis and the Central axis. The former comprises, understandably, multimodal connections in Scandinavia, north of St. Petersburg, and in the Baltic countries. But how on Earth does the Berlin - Warsaw - Minsk - Moscow axis qualify as "Northern"? Probably because the enclosed charts are based on the kind of projection that shifts Moscow, and everything beyond, upwards (northwards?), in oblivion of the fact that Moscow is on the same latitude as Edinburgh and Malmö.

Looking far ahead, much farther than the 2001 White Paper, the HLG report does mention high-speed railways outside the "old" EU, but much to our surprise, these are not linked in any way to the European network as known from available programmes: "high-speed passenger railway line Moscow-St Petersburg" and "high-speed railway line Casablanca - Marrakech"!

Overtures to Air-Rail-Road integration

Technical and economic assumptions

Aviation will progress considerably over the next 20 to 30 years, no doubt (cf. European Aeronautics: A Vision for 2020). What will not change, however, is the enormous energy input needed to make airplanes fly.

Likewise, the chances of developing environment-friendly fuel are pretty small. Consequently, airplanes will continue to poison the atmosphere and wreck our habitat. Another noxious aspect of aviation is noise.

In all those respects, the aircraft is most harassing during takeoff and climbing (ascension). Therefore, the ratio of high-altitude flying to takeoff plus climbing, calculated in terms of
(a) energy input,
(b) atmospheric pollution,
(c) noise, and
(d) time (as an economic variable),
should be a major factor in transport policy making.

In practical terms, this simply means that short-haul flights must be completely eliminated, at least as long as they can be replaced by train services.

Road transport is the main culprit, said the White Paper (p. 16) in reference to environment pollution. And will remain so for quite some time, let us add. But even with far more environment-friendly fuels, the remaining distracting features of road traffic, notably of the private car variety (i.e., noise, energy input, ground occupied by roads, urban congestion) will persist.

Consequently, no efforts must be spared to reduce road traffic as far as possible. The only feasible alternative is rail transport, again. In addition to commuting, the obvious candidate for replacement (by high-speed rail) is long-distance (inter-city) car travelling. Also a fair portion of road haulage could be eliminated by efficient (i.e., fast and reliable) freight rail services, some of which can be operated (at night time) on new high-speed lines.

It is sometimes claimed that new, wide and comfortable roads invite ever more traffic. This may be true to some extent, but short of guessing, three crucial factors deserve to be considered, assuming the presence of a definite road network:
(a) operational costs,
(b) travelling time,
(c) convenience.
From the interplay of those factors results the choice between the alternatives: Road or Rail?

The environmental and energy-related benefits of railways should easily translate into economic, profit-related terms, and yet the relative inertia of the European economy may slow down the process.

The European Union will be therefore entitled to devise and implement economic tools (as leverage) to accelerate and assist the transfer of traffic from Air and Road to Rail.

Two high-speed rail systems

The European high-speed network already comprises two distinct topographic-operational systems: one is based on the motorway pattern, the other resembles conventional railways (and makes more use of the latter lines). The 'motorway' pattern is strictly enforced in France (with one exception: Lille), the other pattern is followed chiefly in Germany.

In the more developed economies, the 'French' model seems perfectly in place. While bypassing built-up areas, the French HS trains reach cities and conurbations by special 'feeders' (branches) or by (old) conventional lines. This principle allows trains to run non-stop at full speed over distances of up to 750 km (Paris - Marseille, where the average speed tops 250 km/h). The traffic is so voluminous that cities on the way are served by separate trains (Paris - Lyon, Lyon - Marseilles, etc.).

The choice between the 'French' and the 'German' model is obviously affected by the demographic factor. In Germany, a relatively large proportion of the population lives in small and medium-sized cities. The German railway planners may have been right, therefore, in making the first HS line between Hannover and Würzburg (327 km) run through three cities on the way: Göttingen, Kassel and Fulda. In addition to the three stops, all trains must slow down in the built-up areas. With a maximum speed of 250 km/h, the trip from Hannover to Würzburg takes two hours exactly. In France, on the other hand, the 427 km of the Paris-Lyon route are covered non-stop also in two hours (even if the train has to slow down over a dozen of kilometres on the outskirts of Paris and over half this distance when entering Lyon).

In a less developed economy, and certainly in the beginning, the 'French' model may seem out of place, simply because there is (initially, at least) not enough demand to justify frequent, pair-wise services. Here the solution might be to make all, or most, trains enter the major cities on the way, leaving the laying of bypasses (through-routes) for later.

Speed is the decisive factor

There is a good reason for discussing those details of running times, bypasses, and en-route speeds. The reason is that high-speed trains 'stand or fall' on speed. In other words, only speed makes them competitive against Air and Road.

Indeed, the distances over which HS rail can win against both Air and Road vary with speed. To use the example discussed above, very few, if any, travellers will prefer to fly from Hannover to Würzburg when the train takes them from centre to centre in two hours. Once the HS line is extended further south, to Munich, and the train will need 90 more minutes, a train trip of 3h 30min from Hannover to Munich may prove non-competitive against the airplane, even though the distance will be less than 600 km. This contrasts with the success of the TGV covering the 750 km from the centre of Paris to the centre of Marseilles in exactly three hours.

The obvious conclusion is that speed is the winner, also with high-speed railways. And this alone explains why efforts are made (notably in Spain) to build lines on which speeds of 350 km/h can be maintained over long distances.

The cost factor

No market economy can ignore the cost factor, even in countries where railways continue to be heavily subsidised from the national budget. But are there reliable cost estimate procedures to assess the future revenues from HS lines that have not been built yet? Each line is specific by definition, as no two lines connect the same places. Likewise, cross-national comparisons are extremely risky, as each country bears its unique characteristics.

Rather than abiding by generalities, we might examine the case of the the first French HS link Paris - Lyon, construction of which began in 1976. Naturally, the go-ahead decision was preceded by a feasibility study, which produced rather positive results.

If we were to compare the estimates of that French study with the actual traffic volume just a few years after the line was put into operation, our conclusion would be that the study was pretty useless: the real figures were undoubtedly much, much higher than the estimates at the stage of planning. For example, did the planners calculate back in 1976 that 20 years on Duplex trains would have to be built and operated at 3-min. intervals, to meet the demand at peak times?

To put it in a nutshell: opportunity breeds demand!

I have friends in Berlin and they come to Warschau every year for Easter, now when the train trip takes six hours. With a HS link offering a travel time of 2h 30min, they would come at least five times a year.

Another example: Warszawa is the (political) capital of Poland, and Krakow is the historic capital and principal cultural centre. The train now covers the distance of almost 300 km in 2h 55min. This is too long for a day's trip—for instance, to go to the theatre. I live in Warsaw and visit Cracow very rarely, but if I have to go there, I always think first: should I not go by car? Once we have a HS service of 1h 15min, I will go there by train perhaps six times a year and will never consider going by car.

How can you calculate (in advance) this potential growth in demand? Maybe by making historical studies, drawing on the example of France and Japan?

This lengthy discussion of the cost factor might be considered redundant if it were not highly relevant in the context of intermodal complementarity. Because in the same way as the demand for high-speed services cannot be estimated in advance with any accuracy, the future demand for high-speed services, either those meant to substitute for short-haul flights, or just feeder flights, as much as those meant as a substitute for inter-city car journeys, and even those meant to supplant long-distance road haulage—is simply inestimable.

A model of Air-Rail-Road integration

[The following arguments were mostly put forward in the author's contribution to the TREN Airport Capacity Consultation, entitled The prospects of Air-Rail-Road integration, which should be available soon on the web pages of the DG for Energy and Transport.]

Having acted for decades as rivals in both passenger and freight traffic, over distances of from 200 to 500 miles, the three basic modes of transport are very much jealous of each other. Still, the hard facts of (economic) life should persuade them to appreciate eventually their mutual complementarity. In other words, the three are in for learning how to coexist in perfect harmony, while bracing each other.

Some countries have undertaken to interconnect their major airports by high-speed rail already. A showcase can be found in Germany, where a high-speed railway was built across hilly country, to link Frankfurt Int'l airport with Köln (Cologne) and some other places of the PBKAL triangle. To make such Air-Rail interconnections truly effective, and hence Rail truly competitive against Air, the high-speed railway station must be situated under the airport. The existing solution at Charles de Gaulle airport does not meet this condition because the TGV station there is situated between just four of a total of fourteen terminals.

The model airport has yet to be built, but there is already one project meant to implement this idea: BBI, or the future Berlin airport (in fact, an extension of Schönefeld), where ICE trains will come to stop right underneath a central terminal.

The model airport must meet more requirements than just a high-speed train station under the airport. It must have a truly central terminal (no extra piers out of reach for passengers on foot) located on top of (at least) two intersecting trunk railway lines, offering quick, direct services to conurbations and between airports as far away as 500 km (i.e., within two hours). Furthermore, such an airport must be easily accessible from nearby motorways.

Because of these requirements, the model airport cannot evolve from an existing airport; in fact, only a greenfield project can meet all the specified requirements.

This bland assertion seems to exclude the densely populated areas of Western Europe from the Garden of Eden. Well, not exactly, because the ideal solution may be approached gradually, at enormous cost, of course, starting with 'makeshift' solutions, like the ICE station at Frankfurt Airport, the TGV station at Charles de Gaulle, the express train station at Zurich Klöten, and (very soon) the high-speed train station at Amsterdam Schiphol.

The ongoing expansion of the high-speed train network will eventually ensure direct services between those and many other airports where rail stations exist or will be built near the (main) terminal(s). Though less conveniently located than the 'ideal' high-speed train station under the central terminal, such stations can still become integrated into what would become the European airport network, as part and parcel of a fully integrated European transport network.

This vision may not come true before 2020 (which might explain why it is missing in the 2001 paper European Aeronautics: A Vision for 2020), but it is certainly worth the effort and expense.

The obvious testing ground for such an all-round Air-Rail-Road integration lies east of the tightly knit network of the 'old' EU, that is, east of Berlin. A look at the UIC map of the European HS network envisaged for 2020 reveals the planned extension of high speed railways as far as Berlin and Vienna, but not beyond. And what actually lies beyond, are lands ideally suited for large-scale projects of the greenfield type.

The anticipated economic advance of the newly accessed EU members (which, according to EU statistics, are scheduled to reach or even overtake the present per capita GDP of the richest 'old' EU countries) creates the potential for an expansion of high-speed railways fully integrated with the major airports of the region. The skeleton of the envisaged fusion of Air and Rail in East-Central Europe is depicted in the chart Air-Rail Integration.

Specifically, the proposed model of Air-Rail-Road integration can be put to the test across the relatively underpopulated and underdeveloped expanses of Poland, in the course of the next 20 years, thanks to copious funds made available by the EU as well as the drive and enthusiasm of the Poles. A vision of the future Central Poland Airport, situated on top of two intersecting high-speed railways, is presented in [this] web site. The eventual success of the proposed test should encourage the most crowded, congested and polluted regions of Western Europe to adopt this model, be it at much higher cost.

Not until a network of such rail-interconnected airports, 300 to 500 km apart, is in operation all across Europe, will the EU have developed a truly efficient, economic and environment-friendly transport system.

Answer to Question no. 8

The actions of the White Paper which need to be reinforced and the new actions to be added, are outlined above.

Boguslaw Jankowski <>

HLG map
HLG Major trans-National axes and Motorways of the Sea ports (PDF file).

HS network
European high speed network 2020

Air Rail Integration
Air-Rail Integration in E-C Europe

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