High-Speed Rail Operators Team Up Against Airlines

<p>Operators of the emerging high-speed rail lines in Europe are joining forces to improve the way European travelers move around the region. Some hope the partnership could increase competition between rail and low-cost airlines.</p>
July 6, 2007, 6am PDT | Nate Berg
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"This week high-speed railways in France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland joined with existing international services, such as the cross-channel Eurostar and the Paris-Brussels Thalys, to form Railteam, a new marketing alliance. The aim by the end of next year is to have one website that will allow travellers to view timetables and prices and, with one or two clicks, book tickets from one end of Europe to another. At the European Commission's insistence, Railteam members will compete on prices, though there could be some tricky moments as some of them team up to take on airlines."

"Europe is in the grip of a high-speed rail revolution. Four new lines are opening this year and next, with trains running up to 320kph."

"Although joint ventures between state-owned rail champions and a grand Railteam marketing alliance might not seem an ideal way of introducing a new level of competition into an industry long regarded as rusty, it is an important start. International passenger-rail services in Europe will be opened up to competition from January 2010. It could lead to a dramatic liberalisation of Europe's railways, akin to that of its airlines. Europe's open skies led to more privatisation of state airlines and the emergence of new, low-cost carriers such as easyJet and Ryanair. If Europe's railway revolution stays on track, an easyTrain or Ryanrail could emerge."

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Published on Thursday, July 5, 2007 in The Economist
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