Replace short haul flights with high speed rail say citizens around the world

2 mins read

Two-thirds (64%) of people around the world back banning air travel where high speed rail alternatives exist, according to a major report commissioned by Hitachi Rail.

The survey, carried out by Savanta Comres, collected data from 12,000 people in 12 different cities around the world: Berlin, Copenhagen, Dubai, London, Milan, Paris, San Francisco, Singapore, Sydney, Toronto, Warsaw and, Washington D.C.

The study offers policymakers, operators and transport planners, powerful insights into what motivates a person’s transport decisions within and between cities.

Growing demand for green long-distance travel

Globally, peoples’ default choices for long distance travel (2.5 hours or more) is made up of 46% choosing to drive, 34% traveling by train and 16% flying. How people travel is not set in stone though and respondents believe that their travel habits will change in the next five years. Globally, over one-third (35%) expect to travel more by train, while 6% believe they will travel more by plane and 17% by car. When it comes to questions around funding more green travel, 56% support raising air taxes to finance new high speed rail, with only one third against the idea.

Growing green long-distance public transport usage is critical to hitting carbon emission reduction targets and meeting global Net Zero requirements, and the research highlights how to achieve this modal shift. Of the respondents whose default long-distance travel mode was car or plane, 63% would switch to traveling by train if it was an hour quicker and 75% would switch to traveling by train if it was cheaper.

Growing Urban public transport

When travelling within cities, driving remains the most likely mode of transport for the majority of people, but other modes of transport are increasingly important, with train and bus ridership increasing by around one-third over the past year as part of a post-Covid revival. For commuters, 60% of journeys involve a car, and 60% involve another mode of transport.

Crowding remains the single biggest barrier to people using public transport. One of the issues associated with crowding, Covid-19 concerns, is no longer perceived as a major barrier. In this context, 78% would be more likely to use public transport if they could avoid crowding. Interestingly, this factor becomes consistently less relevant with age (84% for 18-24yr olds versus 63% for 65+ age bracket).

There is also a demand to use public transport more in the future, with 72% saying they would be more likely to use public transport if it was better connected. This support ranges from as high as 87% in Dubai and 85% in Milan and Warsaw, to lower levels in Washington D.C. (56%) and Copenhagen (57%). Globally, almost half (49%) would still support the idea of a better connected public transport system even if it were more expensive.

Giuseppe Marino, CEO of Hitachi Rail, said: “Policy makers and transport operators must take note of the high demand for better connected public transport. Almost two-thirds of people are prepared to see short haul flights banned where high speed rail alternatives exist, and 56% of people also back increased air taxes to fund high speed rail.

“Our new research shows that there is a genuine demand for more green travel. Over one-third of people expect to travel more by train in the next five years and 72% would use better connected urban transport even more. The challenge now as an industry is to continue to grow seamless and sustainable rail travel at pace to meet this global demand.”