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Europe wants a high-speed rail network to replace airplanes

(CNN) — Breakfast in Paris, lunch in Frankfurt, dinner in Vienna-all without the hassle and frustration of flying.

Imagine a network of modern, ultra-fast and comfortable trains running between all the major cities of the European Union. It provides a reliable, comfortable and sustainable alternative to air travel.

This is in an ambitious European plan to double the use of high-speed rail by 2030 and triple the current level by 2050. It was a vision outlined by the leaders of the railway industry in Lyon, France, on June 29th.

These highly ambitious goals can only be achieved by large-scale, accelerated expansion of high-speed networks, but with realistic and affordable proposals.

Unlike many parts of the world, Europe already has thousands of kilometers of dedicated high-speed rail.

France's world-famous TGV, Germany's ICE and Spain's AVE have transformed rail travel over the last 40 years, with a focus primarily on the domestic market. I'm guessing.

That's not surprising. With countries investing billions of euros in new infrastructure, political pressure to squeeze taxpayers' maximum profits is inevitable.

Even within the European Union, building boundaries across borders will determine who pays what, how contracts are allocated, national standards and regulations. There is tension about the contradictions and many other obstacles.

For decades, it was too easy to start a difficult project until it became a problem for someone else.

Suffocating bureaucrats

Thalys intercity trains already connect France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.

Thalys intercity trains are already in France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.

Nathan Laine / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Even if an international high-speed line is built, it often costs a lot of money, but the country Loyalty, bureaucratic oppression, and high access fees have prevented some routes from reaching their full potential.

Other airlines such as Paris-London and Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam / Cologne via the Channel Tunnel are more successful, but due to a shortage of more passengers. It may be pulled apart. -Carry an air travel.

Currently, European organizations are working on new research that highlights many of the benefits of expanding the high-speed rail network that connects the capital and major cities.

These include the European Commission, the European Rail Community, the European Rail Supply Industry, and ALL RAIL on behalf of non-state-owned railroads.

Most importantly, the group has a new payment method for tens of thousands of kilometers and a radical transformation of the continental rail network of the EU's "Green Deal". It's about investigating how it can help. Carbon-neutral goal by 2050.

Some of that expansion will take place on new routes planned or under construction, but more will be needed to promote the vision of European leaders. increase.

Alberto Mazora, executive director of the European rail community, said CNN Travel has a "master plan" to show the socio-economic benefits of high-speed links between major cities on the continent. He said it was necessary.

Spain has invested heavily in its own high-speed rail network.

Spain has invested heavily in its own high-speed rail network.

Jesús Hellín / Europa Press / Getty Images

"Many things have been achieved so far, Paris-Lyon, Milan-Rome, Barcelona-Madrid, Berlin-Munich has been a national success. More is needed to reach the ambitious goals of the Europa Green Deal and thesmart and sustainable mobility strategy. " Said. "Where should it go if we build it?"

And that's where the first battle round takes place.

When an agreement is reached on a preferred route, a city that benefits (and misses), there is a great deal of debate among competing interests.

Cities desperately bet their claims as the final form of the network is likely to have a significant impact on the future development of Europe and its cities over the next 100 years. increase.

Some EU officials have welcomed the proposal as a future for sustainable travel in Europe, but operators have made it efficient and cost-effective. Other officials have made more cautious notes if possible.

Too promising.

Eurostar trains from Paris to London won't be linked seamlessly to a new high speed north-south line being built in the UK.

Eurostar trains from Paris to London will not be seamlessly linked to the new high-speed Namboku line under construction in the United Kingdom. Hmm.

Jason Alden / Bloomberg / Getty Images

"Pending decisions until the actual concrete project, vehicle order, and timetable are displayed. "Jon Worth says. A cross-border railroad activist.

"Unfortunately, I've heard this, but this seems like railroads are once again promising. Experience has shown that this kind of network It cannot be provided on a time scale. "

Nevertheless, France, Spain and Italy have established high-speed rail networks connecting the largest cities, with more lines planned or under construction. ..

More than any other country so far, France has invested in new connections with its neighbors and built international routes to Belgium, Great Britain, Germany and Spain.

The Lyon-Turin route, currently under construction, is controversial due to questions about its environmental impact and economic potential, the second largest city in France and the north. Italy.

Located in the heart of Europe and sharing borders with nine other countries, Germany plays a major role in networks throughout Europe. The German government's "TEE 2.0" proposal to restart the oldTrans-Europe Expressis an extension of the $ 88 billion "Deutschland Takt" program announced in 2019. The purpose is to provide high speed. And frequent intercity rail services between all German towns and cities by 2030.

But in countries where there is currently no high-speed rail, you can see the greatest benefits elsewhere. The Czech Republic, in collaboration with the French railway industry, will revolutionize travel time between Prague, Brno and Ostrava, providing a much faster international link between Austria, Slovakia, southern Poland and eastern Germany at 350 km / h (350 km / h). We are developing a new route (217 mph).

Faster and more environmentally friendly

Germany has its own Intercity Express (ICE) high-speed train network.

Unique to Germany Intercity Express (ICE) high-speed rail network.

Adam Berry / Getty Images

Poland will also join the high-speed club on a route that will radiate from Warsaw to Lodz, Wroclaw and Poznan. Expansion to Prague and Bratislava is also planned in collaboration with neighboring countries, but it is unlikely to happen until the 2040s.

Even more problematic is the busy international route across the Alps and the Pyrenees. This is a natural barrier that has been a challenge for travelers for centuries.

A good example is from Munich in southern Germany to Milan in northern Italy. These industrial power plants are less than 500 km (300 miles) away, closer to each other than their respective capitals, but separated by the Alps.

Slow rail and road connections mean airlines take advantage of most of this short-hop intercity business, but faster direct trains. May turn that share in favor of the railroad.

When opened in 2032, the 64 km long Brenner Base Tunnel between Innsbruck, Austria and Franzensfeste, Italy will be reduced by about 70 minutes from the existing schedule.

According to EU statistics, 17 of Europe's 20 busiest air routes cover distances of less than 434 miles (700 km). With the right infrastructure, trains in the city center can provide faster, cleaner and more sustainable journeys.

According to a joint report from environmental groups in Germany, Poland, Spain and France, Paris-Berlin flights emit at least six times more carbon dioxide than similar train journeys. Will occur. It is estimated that less than 621 miles (1,000 kilometers) of flights between and within European countries generate 28 million metric tons of CO2 each year.

And according to Alberto Mazzola of the European rail community, carbon emissions trading will fund the huge investment needed to complete the European high-speed rail network. It can be an important tool to provide.

"The EU's total CO2 emissions are about 3.8 billion tonnes each year, and transportation accounts for more than 1 billion tonnes. With the reduction, the road sector can use additional revenue to fund the improvement of public transport. "

Currently in the EU, passenger planes, trucks and automobiles. Excess carbon emissions from are billed at € 50 per ton, but could soon rise to € 80 per ton. The proceeds will be reinvested in transportation, potentially adding approximately € 8 billion annually to the railway upgrade pot.

"I feel there is a real willingness to invest in modal shift now, but we need to act swiftly," Mazora adds.

Integrated Network

France's TGV trains have been delivering high-speed services for decades.

French TGV trains have been around for decades We have provided high-speed services over the years.

Jeff Pachoud / AFP / Getty Images

New trains, digital signaling, automated train operations, big data, improved as important and sophisticated as civil engineering Technologies such as ticketing are important for improving rail travel and attracting millions of new passengers.

Top Priority The goal for the European railway community is to create an independent ticketing platform by 2025 and put together all fares and timetables available throughout Europe. That is.

By 2030, this information will be integrated with other means of transportation to give travelers door-to-door information, whether by train, bus, bicycle or tram. We can provide the fare. Or a combination of modes.

This level of integration is already standard in Austria and Switzerland, and to a lesser extent Germany, but elsewhere in Europe, to say the least. There are variations in the quality of.

Despite the best efforts of some governments and state-owned operators, competition on high-speed routes is popular with Italian and Spanish passengers, improving service and frequency. It has improved the number of passengers and reduced fares. Organizations such as

ALLRAIL are pushing for similar reforms elsewhere in the EU, but progress is frustratingly slow.

"I often see 1,000-seat high-speed trains connecting all over Europe," said Nick Brooks, the secretary general of ALLRAIL.

"This leads to low fares and high revenues. Other competing long haul modes have set" net zero "emission targets, but railroads do that. It can be bigger and better. The results of this study should enable high-speed rail to become the backbone of long-distance travel in Europe.

Covid Factor

Networked cross-border high-speed trains could replace air travel.

Cross networked borders Exchange high-speed trains for air travel.

Jesús Hellín / Europa Press / Getty Images

Building high-speed rail to expand capacity will increase the space for existing freight trains and local / local trains.

When the arterial roads reached capacity after World War II, countries built highways and autobahns. Highways are the equivalent of railroads, robbing the fastest long-distance traffic and creating capacity on existing routes.

Sophisticated high-speed trains steal headlines and attract investment, while more people have better local and urban train services and road-to-rail freight transport. You will benefit directly from the possible modal shifts through. It benefits everyone.

However, it is particularly unsuccessful to offer such a broad, ambitious and costly package of new rail projects to more than 20 countries with different priorities and budgets. There are difficulties at certain times. these are.

In summary, European railroads are estimated to have lost more than $ 52 billion during the pandemic. Compensation from the EU and governments has so far filled only about one-fifth of that huge hole.

Equally worrisome is the estimated 20% reduction in normal weekday commuting traffic, which is the long-standing backbone of rail revenue. Long-distance leisure travel has recovered much more strongly, but railroad managers are worried that reductions will be unavoidable if the gaps are not closed.

The very large size of the proposal also means that it will take years to deliver the required work, even if it goes according to plan.

Emissions trading and financial support from the EU will definitely help in many cases, especially in Eastern and Central Europe, but the European Union builds following the example of China. I'm still not sure if it can be done. A very ambitious network of high-speed rail on such a short timescale.

Image above: Frecciarossa high-speed train in Italy. Credits: Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt / AFP / Getty Images