New Bimodal Opportunities Using High-speed Railways: a Study of Potential Demand

New Bimodal Opportunities Using High-speed Railways: a Study of Potential Demand


J M Menendez, B Guirao, A Rivas, A Niño, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, ES



The first Spanish high-speed railway started to run in April 1992, between the cities of Madrid and Seville and, until now, it has only been used to transport passengers centred in Madrid, covering more than 2.000 kilometres during the next fifteen years and the operation with a bimodal criteria is started to be discussed, as a way to reap the maximum benefit of these high investments. At the same time, this could be a good solution to reduce road traffic congestion at some corridors.

This government policy is supported by the fact that, in short, rail services operation will be liberalized in Spain, and following European Union guidelines, freight road transport can be limited attending environmental and safety criteria. So, passengers and goods demand analysis for high-speed rail lines can not be studied without taking into account other modes of transportation. It is necessary to find new ways of bimodal operation in these cases in which these formulae can have an acceptable market .

This paper tries to analyse the possibility (mainly in terms of demand) of using Spanish high-speed rail lines in a bimodal way not only for passengers but also for goods. The meaning of that could be translated into platform wagons carried with cars, lorries and buses, and running along the high-speed rail lines, with a considerable time saving. In some countries, these concepts of bimodal transport have been defined as ?ferrytrain?(passengers) or ?rail freeway? (goods). Is this idea commercial? Is it possible to put into practice? The article conclusions are the consequence of a research project (financed by the Spanish Public Works Ministry), performed by the Department of Transportation of the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha and finished in January 2003. Specifically, the following three were the main project objectives: 1) Technical feasibility analysis of the high-speed network to be used for implementing new ways of bimodal offers. 2) Analysis and quantification of the potential demand (freight and passengers) attracted by the new services: present high-speed users, freight companies and interurban buses companies 3) A mathematical approach to model this potential demand.

As a first step, a bibliography search was done, looking for European experience on bimodal transport and bimodal technology. Data from the characteristics of the present European high-speed lines being operated with mixed traffic (passengers and freight) and data from the characteristics of the trains running on these lines, were properly collected. Besides, information about the commercial systems used for bimodal transport was also studied (MEGAPACK, SEMI-RAIL, ROADTRAILER, COMBITRANS, ModaLohr, EUROSHUTTLE, etc). Some reflection on rail geometric deterioration caused by this mixed traffic was included in this introductory chapter. In Spain, the geometric deterioration has been highly discussed as an argument to avoid freight wagons running on the new high-speed network, so the vertical force per wheel is limited and the additional maintenance cost for this hypothetic mixed traffic is estimated.

As a second step, a campaign of surveys was designed, carried out and analysed in the first Spanish high-speed rail line. Surveys were taken to high-speed rail users in the main relations of this corridor: Madrid-Sevilla, Madrid-Córdoba, Madrid-Ciudad Real, Madrid-Puertollano, Madrid-Cádiz, Madrid-Huelva, Madrid-Algeciras y Madrid-Cádiz.

This campaign included 26 trains (shuttles, AVE and Talgo200 services) taking into account working days and holidays. Three thousand three hundred and twenty-three (3323) valid filled questionnaires were obtained, which allowed to describe the preference of the potential users of ?ferrytrain?. This preference was directly asked at question 23 (would you use ?ferrytren???), and the possible answers were : ?no?, ?yes? or ?perhaps?. The sample we worked with provided a maximum error of 10%, with a confidence interval of 90%.

The preference defined at question 23, was later compared with the traveller profile (age, profession, annual incomes, education and vehicle availability) and the trip characteristics (final origin and destination, transport mode to access and disperse to/from the rail-station, time of the stay at destination, number of people travelling together, trip purpose, type of discount ticket or trip frequency). This collected information allowed different kinds of cross-sectional analysis including a mathematical approach to model the future demand of the new service offered.

As the same time, it was interesting to sound out on the market of interurban buses companies and parcel service enterprises. A group of more than fifty companies (international and national transport operators) were selected and the operation manager of each of them was interviewed for more than two hours. We collected the perfect conditions for the company to place their vehicles on rail platforms by offering them a hypothetic fare.

Freight transport companies selection was accomplished after the analysis of the Annual National Freight Road Transport Survey (?Encuesta Permanente de Transporte de Mercancías por Carretera?). Specifically, the information related to 1999, 2000 and 2001 for the corridor Madrid-Sevilla was studied. Data collected by this National Freight Road Transport Survey gives the number of ton-kilometres of product transported among provinces. There is a classification of freight, so it was interesting to identify which kind of products were suitable to be transported by ?rail-freeways?(goods running on high-speed lines using different devices-rail platforms with containers, MEGAPACK systems, etc.). Once we have selected the types of product that fitted better (urgent parcels, fruits and vegetables, valuable products and perishable articles), it resulted easier to choose the companies to interview, which amount up to 40.

In relation to inter-city bus companies, we were interested in studying not only regular services but also discretional services (private hire), so 22 enterprises operating in the whole corridor (provinces of Madrid, Ciudad Real, Córdoba, Sevilla, Cádiz, Huelva y Málaga) were selected to be interviewed. When the first interviews with these companies started, a first issue came up: their main concern was for the type of contract to establish with the passenger. At present, when a person buys a ticket for a bus itinerary, a contract is established between the passenger and the bus company for the security trip conditions. The civil responsibility is taken by the bus company during the whole trip. What would happen, from a legal point of view, for the use of ?ferrytren?? Ferrytren system involves that the bus is carried on the rail wagon platform (by different technical devices) and run on the high-speed rail line. This conclusion together with other considerations made up the final report related to the bus transportation.

Once the phase of surveys and interviews was accomplished, we used the Linear Multiple Regression as a tool to model only the AVE users preferences because the sample size was good enough. Modelling the future demand of ?ferrytrain? helped us to understand deeply the survey campaign results, while the interviews analysis (buses companies and freight road transport companies) had a more qualitative component.

The conclusion chapter of the research project sums up all the study results, and points out a difficult future scenario for the bimodal system implementation and the methods to improve it. This forecast has been built on a detailed data base and more of ten months of intense research works


Association for European Transport