High-speed Rail for Regional Transport:case Studies in European Countries

High-speed Rail for Regional Transport:case Studies in European Countries


F Torchin, Sétra, FR; S Combes, S Hasiak, Cete Nord-Picardie, FR; P Menerault, Université Lille 1, FR


The present paper analyses the development of high-speed rail for regional and local transport in different European countries, with a specific focus on the new service of "TER-GV" in Northern France.


High speed rail has been developed following opposite network schemes and business plans in different European countries. In France, and, for a part, in the Netherlands, Italy and South Belgium, high speed trains carry passengers on long distance trips, on dedicated passengers rail lines, without connecting medium-sized towns along the way. On the contrary, in Germany, Spain, and for a part, Italy, Great Britain and North Belgium, high speed rail creates an intercity network connecting regional and local cities at a maximum speed of 200-250 km/h and with high frequencies.

The present paper, produced by the Sétra (Technical Department for transport, Roads and Bridges engineering and Road Safety, French Ministry for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Spatial Planning), analyses how high speed rail is used in these countries for regional and local trips : how the infrastructure is shared or not with long-distance passenger trains and freight trains, what the characteristics of the rolling stock are, what the costs and business plans are, what role the different stakeholders play and how they may cooperate?

In a first part, the analysis focuses on the "TER-GV", a service introduced in 2000 in the French Nord-Pas-de-Calais region. Dedicated TGVs roll on existing high speed lines to connect Lille with regional cities such as Arras, Dunkerque and Boulogne, with transit times below 30 mn. Tariffs are similar to those on classic regional trains (TER), the additional cost (around 20%) being mostly paid by the regional council, who is also the inventor of this new service.
Based on detailed interviews with the stakeholders and short interviews with passengers, the present study concludes that this service, a quite new, but successful, concept in French railways, could be extended (higher frequencies, other lines?), provided that certain conditions are fulfilled :
- enough path capacities must be available on the infrastructure, which is a major constraint on existing long-distance high speed lines. This demand is more and more taken into account in the design of new infrastructures.
- the rolling stock should be fitted to the service, for instance with a capacity of 200 seats and a maximum speed at 200-250 km/h. Some trains with these characteristics are already in service on European lines (Spain, Belgium?), but the growing demand might lead the equipment suppliers to propose new generations of trains optimised for this purpose.
- an optimal business plan has to be found, so that the cost for public finance could be minimised. The complete cost-benefit analysis of the service remains to be done.

In a second part, the paper analyses the regional high speed trains in the Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain, Italy, Germany and Spain on a bibliographical base, focusing on the network, service organisation and rolling stock. This analysis serves as a comparison to the French situation and has proved to be very useful for French decision makers.


Association for European Transport