Railways poised for a giant come back? (Case Study - Italian Railways)
In December 2019, with a strong fleet of 144 Frecce, the nickname of Frecciargento – high speed railways (HSR) in Italy, around three hundred and fifty million passengers carried through in 10 years, 380 million kilometres travelled and connectivity to over 80, the history of railways in Italy witnessed a revolution. Today’s high-speed trains may sound slightly less romantic when compared to 19th century European train travel, but there’s no denying the benefits of modern technology on the Italian rail infrastructure. Italy can certainly vouch for this. In December 2019, with a strong fleet of 144 Frecce, around three hundred and fifty million passengers carried through in 10 years, 380 million kilometres travelled and connectivity to over 80, the history of railways in Italy witnessed a revolution. Trenitalia’s Frecce trains are its fastest line of high-speed trains. They connect Italy’s major cities, with even more routes under construction and in the planning stages. The Hi-Speed railways are here to rule.
The high-speed railway stations are a state-of-the-art architecture; the upheaval of the railways has created 500,000 new jobs between 1998 and 2018. And most importantly this entire project is a stark example of environmental sustainability: Approximately 20 million tonnes less carbon dioxide was emitted between 2008 and 2018 all thanks to the people of Italy, who made the drastic shift from private cars and airplanes to trains.
Italian high-speed trains have brought about a marked change in people’s lifestyle and mobility in the country. As a new form of commuting possible, it has also led to the regeneration of large urban centres, it has shortened distances, thereby shrinking the country and bringing its citizens closer too. For the people travelling on a High Speed train, the latter saved on average an hour a day, compared with a trip to the same destination in 2005. A report released in 2019 by Ferrovie dello Stato, Italy state railway company, showed that the number of train passengers between Rome and Milan, the country’s chief business route, had almost quadrupled; from 1 million in 2008 to 3.6 million by 2018.
The surge in train travel and the low-cost flight revolution eventually resulted in a swan song for the Italian Government-owned Alitalia. Italians have warmed to the idea of travelling comfortably by train, — there is now no reason to take a flight as the Hi-speed railways have resolved the commuting issues. This trend has seen an upward surge worldwide.
The air industry was once one of the fastest growing sectors, with fiercely competitive offerings from connecting destinations, to cost and flexibility. Their huge profit margins also permit them to invest in technology, infrastructure and passenger-friendly services above all.
But the travel scenario, at least with respect to local and interstate movement, is witnessing more and more passengers being inclined to opt for the train instead. Air transport however continues to dominate the long-haul travelling market.
An analysis by Bloomberg has recently reflected on the key routes in Asia and Europe, on how high-speed railways is gradually overtaking short distance flight travel.
The reasons are easy to absorb. Firstly, when taking a flight entails – travelling from home to the airport well ahead of the scheduled departure, time spent in baggage check-in and security, the flying time itself, and then the additional transport and baggage pickup– whereas taking the high speed train offers a big overall travel time savings. Across the world, High speed railways have provided options for citizens in rural and small urban communities with increased transfer points and feeder services, connecting them with the new HSR corridors.
Further with respect to the costs, although high-speed rail travel is not cheap, especially on modern, latest generation services, booking a ticket well in advance and using a pre-subscribed railcard can often turn out to be more budget-friendly than many air travel.
And with sustainability becoming the buzzword, passengers who are conscious of their environmental footprint, repeatedly choose train travel which is the least polluting way to cover distances: As per Rail Europe, a train generates up to ten times less CO2 than an airplane. According to the International Association of Railways (UIC), high-speed railways are eight times more energy efficient than airplanes and thus dependency on energy resources is also reduced.
From the economy point of view, building high-speed rail has create hundreds of jobs which are highly skilled in nature that will revitalize the domestic rail industries supplying transportation products and services. Many ancillary jobs are also created in the proces
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