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A level playing field for High Speed Rail and Low Cost Carriers: A preliminary analysis

On certain European routes, cheap flights by Low Cost Carrier (LCC) are now competing directly with High Speed Rail (HSR) links. To improve insight into the external costs associated with each, CE was commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Transport and Public Works (Aviation directorate) to carry out a desk study to assess the marginal external costs and charges of LCCs and HSR in the Netherlands, to served as input to the 'level playing field' debate. A first-pass analysis of other costs and charges was also carried out. With the exception of aircraft noise nuisance, virtually none of the external costs associated with either option are internalised in the form of any substantial charge. The overall conclusion is that the external costs of neither High Speed Rail nor air transport in general are properly accounted for in current policy and pricing regimes. This study is merely a first step towards addressing 'level playing field' issues and cannot be used to draw any final conclusions. For fair comparison of HSR en LCC, the analysis must go beyond external costs and charges to encompass issues of cost, depreciation and transfer of existing aviation and HSR infrastructure as well as various forms of government support, both direct and indirect.


Huib van Essen
Geert Warringa

Delft, November 2004

Report in Dutch

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