Planes and Trains: Proven partners or rising rivals?

In parts of Europe and Asia, high-speed rail is becoming a viable alternative to flying on many key short-haul routes. What does this mean for aviation and how is the industry adapting to this shift? Lee Cross investigates

Rail travel being used as a practical replacement for short-haul flights in Europe is nothing new. Back in 1957, an international network of (relatively) high-speed, first-class trains, linking major European cities was established. Initially, Trans-Europ(e) Express (TEE) proved popular and its route map grew to cover ten countries from Denmark in the north, to Spain and Italy in the south, reaching the peak of its success in the mid-1970s.

Alas, by the turn of the next decade, the business people at whom the operation was aimed had gradually been lured away by airlines, domestic rail services and, with major investment in highway infrastructure, the humble automobile. In the following years, passenger numbers on the dedicated TEE services dropped, eventually fizzling out.

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