New routes on old railways: increasing rail’s mode share within the constraints of the existing railway network

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, place - urban, mode - rail, operations - capacity, operations - performance, planning - service quality, planning - service improvement, planning - travel demand management


Rail capacity, Rail demand, Rail costs, Modal shift


This paper describes an integrated methodology for identifying potential ‘quick wins’ for mode shift from road to passenger rail transport. Firstly, a procedure for analysing rail’s relative competitiveness in the market for passenger transport between large urban areas is developed and then applied to a UK case study. The purpose of such analysis is to allow the identification of flows where rail is currently relatively uncompetitive (in terms of journey time in particular) and to assess the reasons for this poor performance, so that the issues which suppress rail use may be addressed. In parallel, a framework, methodology and tool for the assessment of existing and potential capacity (trains, seats, TEUs, etc.) is developed for both passenger and freight traffic, to identify and address network constraints. An illustrative example of the use of these demand and capacity assessment tools is then presented, with the tools used to identify and evaluate flows where rail demand is suppressed by poor service quality and where spare capacity exists which would allow the passenger rail service to be improved without requiring significant investments in infrastructure. The effects of such improvements on demand are predicted, and the cost implications of operating such additional services are discussed. The analysis suggests that there may be significant potential for increasing rail’s mode share by providing additional inter-urban services where rail currently offers an inferior service.


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