Strategies for international High-Speed Rail operators in the European passenger transport market

Date: 3 July 2017

Venue: University of Antwerp, Hof van Liere, F. de Tassis hall - Prinsstraat 13 - 2000 Antwerp (route: UAntwerpen, Stadscampus)

Time: 5:00 PM

PhD candidate: Jack Doomernik

Principal investigator: Prof T. Vanelslander

Co-principal investigator: Prof E. Van de Voorde

Short description: PhD defence Jack Doomernik - Faculty of Applied Economics


Over the last decades, high-speed rail systems have developed steadily in Asia and Europe and are currently an accepted mode of travel. One of the goals of the European Commission’s transport policy, based on the four freedoms of movement as declared in the Treaty of Rome in 1957, was to build a sustainable future by revitalising and liberalising the railways. A new European legal railway framework was put in place to open the national networks for other operators and to promote the building of a pan-European high-speed rail network based on the initiatives already taken by national governments.

This research aims at a better understanding of traffic demand and supply, the market developments, performance of high-speed rail operators and competition mechanism in passenger transport markets to find the most likely future scenarios for international traffic in response to the railway liberalization in Europe. Various analysis techniques are selected and applied to quantify the main research areas, where special attention is paid to the London – Paris passenger market.

Although the market for international cross-border rail services is open since 2010, incumbent operators established their market position by an early involvement in the development of high-speed rail network in Europe. Despite progress in the liberalization of the railways, there is little room for new entrants to position themselves. Entry barriers for new entrants are numerous like market demand, competition, European rail directives and regulations, certified rolling stock and staff, network access and financial resources. For new entrants, head-on competition with product differentiation on high-demand connections gives the best opportunities to capture a fair share of the market and become profitable. The market share on a specific route depends in the first place on the capacity and service frequency that can be offered relative to the competitors and in the second place on the price and service quality.

Further implementation of the agreed four railway packages is needed to speed up the railway liberalization process in countries that are lagging behind and a fifth Railway Package may be considered to remove the remaining barriers for open access, based on the lessons learned from opening the domestic markets. A single European railway area would benefit from an independent pan-European rail infrastructure manager and tendering of Public Service Contracts for international routes, in analogy to the approach in domestic railway markets. Harmonization of national tariff systems on international routes would facilitate cross-border traffic.