Impact of liberalisation on HSR affordability

Project information

  • Acronym: Liber-Afford
  • Impact of liberalisation on HSR affordability
  • Sector: Passenger
  • Project director: Bertrand Minary
  • Project manager: Michele Gesualdi
  • Status: ongoing project
  • Project code: 2023/PAS/777

Project description

High-speed rail (HSR) has been recognised as a significant contributor to a country’s economic progress, productivity, and competitiveness. However, the introduction of HSR services can have adverse effects on social equity. The inauguration of HSR lines often leads to the reduction or elimination of conventional rail services, which typically have a broader territorial reach. Moreover, HSR services generally come with significantly higher ticket prices compared to the conventional rail services they replace. This price increase can exclude certain social groups, such as low-income households, students, and those with limited accessibility, from using rail services due to financial constraints.

The liberalisation of the passenger rail sector, as promoted by EU authorities, presents a significant opportunity to mitigate the negative social equity impacts of HSR services. Competition in any economic sector typically results in reduced ticket prices and improvements in service supply and quality. These effects can significantly enhance the social equity impact of HSR services.

This project proposal aims to investigate the potential impact of rail liberalisation on HSR supply and its implications for social equity. Specifically, this project will:

i) Examine the effect of rail liberalization on the supply and pricing of HSR operators.
ii) Understand the impact of rail liberalisation on social equity, such as changes in users’ mode choices and the use of HSR among vulnerable groups.
iii) Propose recommendations to enhance the social equity effects of HSR, which can be applied to any high-speed network.

Project objectives

This project will gather and analyse empirical HSR ticketing records and user surveys using advanced econometric modelling. The analysis results will be used to propose recommendations for enhancing social equity in HSR services without negatively impacting operators’ profits. The project will explore the potential of HSR liberalisation on social equity through the following steps:

Benchmarking: Services and products provided by HSR operators in liberalised markets will be benchmarked, and comparisons will be made across operators within the same rail corridor and across countries.

Investigation: The potential of rail liberalisation to increase the supply provided in HSR networks will be investigated.

Characterisation: The current socio-demographic profile of HSR users will be characterised. The needs and expectations of passengers will be investigated to help HSR operators provide targeted ticketing products.

Model Development: Advanced econometric models will be developed to explore the impact of HSR on social equity. Multiple aspects could be modeled, including individuals’ frequency of use of HSR, sensitivity of individuals’ mode choices to potential changes in current HSR prices and supply, and factors potentially motivating the adoption/usage of HSR among socially disadvantaged groups.

Recommendation Preparation: Recommendations will be prepared to help operators and policymakers take advantage of rail liberalisation to achieve more equitable growth of HSR services.

If the project is not undertaken, the perception of HSR as a transport service only for the affluent will persist. However, the recent market openness of HSR services in some EU countries presents an ideal opportunity to stimulate HSR demand while promoting social equity throughout the EU.

Project structure

WP1 - State of the art and practice  
WP2 - Data sources and selection of use cases 
WP3 - Understanding the impact of HSR liberalisation on social equity 
WP4 - Conclusions, recommendations and dissemination of results 

Project members

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Friday 31 May 2024