Modal shift prospects to the Latvian section of Rail Baltica: evidence from the market reality.
European authorities present the high speed railway (HSR) to the general public as the most environmentally friendly mode of transport as switching passengers from air- and road transport to high-speed rail significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions.
The investment rationale for the Rail Baltica (RB) project, the first HSR project in the Baltic States, stipulates that the commissioning of a new railway corridor will lead to a significant modal shift of passengers flows from other modes of transport in the region.
In the article, the author attempts to assess the prospect of a shift in passenger flows from motor and air transport to the Latvian section of RB.
In contrast to the methodology used by the developers of the investment rationale, in this study, modal shift is determined and modeled in accordance with the ́what-if ́scenario approach, including the interests and preferences of all interested participants, and not just RB holders. These are passengers, air- and road transport operators, and regional authorities.
In addition to this approach, the author also used cluster analysis methods since the study considers only the Latvian section of the project, statistical analysis methods, and a critical analysis method of previous scientific works on the modal shift of air passengers and car passengers to European HSRs.
The study showed that the prospect of modal shift of passenger flows from other modes of transport to the Latvian section of RB is significantly lower than the results presented in the investment feasibility study.
At the same time, the study determined that the forecast volume of passenger induced demand by the RB project is 3- 4 times higher than the project evaluation. On the one hand, this can increase the loading level of passenger trains in the Latvian section which has a minimum occupancy rate compared to the rest of the new railway corridor, and, on the other hand, worsen the environmental performance of the RB project.
Based on the findings of this study, the author offers recommendations addressed to both RB project holders and Latvian national and regional authorities making decisions on comprehensive development of the country's transport system.