Barriers to Passenger Rail Use: A Review of the Evidence

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - car, mode - rail, place - europe, ridership - mode choice, ridership - perceptions


rail travel, mode shift, perceptions, policy packages, car dependence


Research has shown that even when rail travel is the most cost-effective mode of transport for a particular journey, many travellers will still choose other modes. This indicates the existence of non-financial barriers to rail use, and this paper reviews the evidence on the importance of such barriers, focusing particularly on the UK but also considering research from other countries. A total of 37 distinct barriers were identified, and these can be divided into “hard”, “soft” and “complementary” factors. Travellers are unlikely to consider these barriers individually, viewing them instead as a package, which can make it difficult to identify which barriers are most significant. In many cases, all barriers which exist for a particular traveller will need to be addressed before mode shift occurs. After considering the relative importance of the different barriers, the paper concludes by making some suggestions as to the most effective ways in which these barriers can be overcome and mode shift to rail achieved. This has key implications for transport policy, as it can inform the targeting of the limited funds available to influence travel behaviour and increase the sustainability of travel patterns.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Taylor&Francis, copyright remains with them.