Potentials for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by inducing modal shift in European long-distance passenger travel

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Long-distance person transport contributes significantly to the GHG-emissions of all person transport. The EU aims for reducing the emissions by inducing a significant modal shift to the train, raising its market share to at least 50% on medium distances in 2050. This implies that the current share has to be multiplied by four. The paper examines the impact of significant modal shifts on the GHG emissions of long-distance transport by Europeans. The impact is estimated for three scenarios, a) no modal shift (trend), b) doubling train use, and c) larger shifts that give the targeted 50% market share. The basic assumption is that the probability of a modal shift to the train is higher when the appropriateness of the train compared to the currently used mode is better. Therefore, different modal shifts are assumed for different segments of the long-distance travel market, indicating different standards of the train mode compared to the best performing alternative. In the segment where the train currently is inferior, no shift is assumed. The main result is that the potential for reducing emissions in long-distance travelling is limited. It is unlikely that reductions larger than 20% can be achieved. The main reason is that the segment where the train is inferior includes the majority of the mileage and emissions of long-distance travel. Moreover, it is the fastest growing segment. If a reference is made to only the segments where the train is competitive, the possible reductions are significantly larger.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMoving towards more sustainable mobility and transport through smart systems
EditorsFrank Witlox
Place of PublicationGhent, Belgium
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventBIVEC-GIBET Transportation Research Days 2019 - Ghent, Belgium
Duration: 23 May 201924 May 2019


ConferenceBIVEC-GIBET Transportation Research Days 2019


  • GHG emissions
  • modal shift
  • long-distance travel
  • Europe


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