With Competition in High-Speed Operation, Who Wins?

» France will be a battleground for intercity rail travel beginning in 2012. Whether the country’s citizens will benefit is up for debate.

Last week, Le Figaro reported that Veolia Environnement will be working with Italy’s Trenitalia national rail company to compete on French high-speed rail routes beginning in 2012. The ramifications of the move are significant: it will open up existing lines to multiple operators, producing consumer choice currently not available because of a decades-old monopoly on intercity operations by French national rail corporation SNCF. This competition is mandated by European Union law, which is intended to reduce transportation costs by opening up services to multiple operators.

But even if some routes see lower fares, the overall effect on the rail system is less positive. Competition on the most valuable routes seems likely to reduce investment on less profitable segments. In the meantime, operators, interested in increasing revenues, will be predisposed to angle services towards more wealthy passengers — meaning fewer travel opportunities for people across the economic spectrum.

The new competition from Veolia and Trenitalia isn’t surprising: both have been considering entering the French market for the past year. Veolia was in discussions with Air France about operating a train service, and Trenitalia is already planning two trains a day between Paris and Milan and Paris and Genoa next summer; some of these trains will also stop in France’s second and third largest metropolitan areas, Lyon and Marseille.

Together, the companies hope to take on Eurostar on the Paris to London corridor, Thalys on the Brussels to Paris Corridor, and DB German Railways on the Paris to Frankfurt international corridors. The market is currently only open to travel in which 50% of both volume and turnover is by passengers traveling between multiple countries as France won’t open its domestic market for a few more years. But Veolia clearly has its sights on the more lucrative and more trafficked travel between destinations within the country, and its chosen routes will allow it to sell tickets for trips between Paris and Lyon, Paris and Lille, and Paris and Strasbourg, three of SNCF’s largest ridership generators.

In other words, Veolia and Trenitalia are going straight for the French rail company’s throat. SNCF is reciprocating by competing directly with Trenitalia on Italian domestic routes with its 20% investment in NTV, which will offer high-speed service there starting in 2011.

Veolia may be able to offer lower prices because SNCF’s employees are well-compensated for their work; those driving for and working on the private company’s trains are likely to receive 30% lower benefits. SNCF claims that its arsenal of hundreds of TGV trains, tens of thousands of employees, and good reputation will be too much for even an industrial mammoth like Veolia, which is the world’s largest provider of outsourced public services. Yet that company’s recent merger with Transdev, a major transit operator, makes it a transport monolith; together, the companies operate the light rail systems in Barcelona, Madrid, Sydney, Dublin; the metros in Seoul, Genoa, and Porto; commuter rail in Miami, Boston, and northwest Germany; and bus rapid transit in Las Vegas and Bogota — among others.* This will be a battle of titans.

SNCF’s position in France, then, is under threat. Veolia’s choice to compete on the company’s major intercity routes is not surprising: they’re where the money is. SNCF brings in 85% of its passenger fare revenues from its TGV division, effectively subsidizing many of its local commuter and slower intercity services with high-speed operations. Meanwhile, the rising fees being charged for track use — a result of conflicting interests between the infrastructure owner and the rail operators –  could make the situation worse by reducing profits on the high-speed lines.

If SNCF is forced to lower prices on its most profitable routes, it will see decreasing revenues and potentially be forced to scale back services on the lines it operates at no profit. On the other hand, if SNCF decides to attempt to increase profit, it could actually increase fares and improve service quality, with the intention of expanding its wealthy and business clientele.

Either way, the lives of France’s citizens aren’t likely to be materially improved by what isn’t going to be pure competition but instead something more closely resembling a fight between an oligarchy of mega-operators. One of two outcomes is predictable: service will be compromised on less valuable lines as ticket prices decrease slightly on the heaviest traveled corridors even as employee compensation is reduced, or fares will increase and high-speed trains will become a commodity for members of the upper half of the income spectrum alone, as it already is in countries like Germany.

Though France’s situation might seem irrelevant from the North American standpoint — it, after all, has been operating high-speed trains for almost thirty years while neither the U.S. nor Canada have a true fast rail system — the involvement of private interests in transportation investment is clearly an issue in similar U.S. projects. California’s planned high-speed system, which will transport passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2h40 by 2020, will be primarily funded through government spending, but the State High-Speed Authority expects to attract several billions of dollars in private financing to pay for the project’s costs.

In the California Authority’s most recent report, it argued that fares should be set at around 83% of equivalent air fares, after arguing in previous years that fares set at 50% would also be an option. The latter choice would produce a slightly lower annual yield, despite the fact that it would attract almost 20 million more annual passengers by 2034 compared to the more expensive option. In order to interest private involvement in the process, the Authority seems to be choosing to prioritize profits over increased mobility. That’s because a private company’s interest, of course, is to maximize profits, not necessarily to be an engine for social improvement. The State of California, on the other hand, has — or should have — a different mission.

But the rail system wouldn’t necessarily be built without the private funds; neither the federal or state government is flush with cash at the moment, so increased public funds wouldn’t be simple to assemble.

This quandary, then, is similar to that faced by the French and European rail systems — opening what had been a public enterprise to the private market may increase investment (and even perhaps improve some services), but the consequence seems likely to be an increase in social inequalities by reducing access to transportation for the less wealthy and for those who don’t live in the most populous regions.

The correct answers to these questions is subjective, coming down to what ideology is expressed by decision-makers. Transportation can be conducted in such a manner that encourages profit creation, or it can focus on expandeding transportation provision to everyone. Which route will we pick?

When SNCF opened its first TGV high-speed line between Paris and Lyon in 1981, its marketing campaign used the motto Le progrès ne vaut que s’il est partagé par tous (Progress is worthless unless it’s shared by all), a slogan that seems quite pertinent in all matters of transportation investment. And indeed, the company has fulfilled that objective in many ways, offering fast trains at low prices for everyone throughout its history and systematically providing deep discounts to the young, the old, and those with large families.

Will it be able to do the same in a system where competition is encouraged? Or will it be forced to sacrifice the goals of mass transport for the benefit of bigger profits?

* As part of the merger, French operations will be transferred to Paris Métro operator RATP.
25 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • This is essentially the same dilemma you face when you decide to de-regulate utility companies, no?

  • Yonah, the experience of airline deregulation is exactly the opposite of what you predict for rail: airlines compete on price, so they tend to move toward no-frills service and low cost rather than business class service and premium cost.

  • Alon -
    Thanks for that point. You’re right that that’s been the experience with air travel, but there are a few issues:

    (1) The air industry is plagued by constant bankruptcies, meaning that services are ultimately subsidized by the government and that the kind of strong price competition is resulting in failing companies;

    (2) Air travel, even with the budget airlines, is still more expensive than rail travel, with the exceptions of (not sustainable) examples like Ryanair, which is running on air;

    (3) Airlines, pre-deregulation, were not interested in having low prices — unlike today’s SNCF: there are different ideological motivations; this explains why flights to hub cities are often overpriced (airlines have monopolies to their own hub cities and have no interest in providing moderate-priced flights to those destinations);

    (4) While there are low-price flights on many major corridors (just as I suggested would occur on some of the heavily traveled rail corridors), flights to smaller destinations are often plagued by completely over-priced flights because there’s no cross-subsidy, unlike the SNCF situation today, and much like the situation I predict.

  • The bankrupt examples are mainly full-fare airlines. Southwest and Ryanair have made use of general subsidies like air traffic control, but they haven’t gotten any subsidies from the government.

    Today’s SNCF is interested in low prices, but it has problems with implementation. The low-cost idTGV drew fire from the unions, restricting how often SNCF can run the service.

    Smaller destinations have more expensive flights because it costs more money per passenger to fly to them, and there’s often less competition. With trains, there’s no comparable effect. If you go from Paris to Lyon, you have to go through Le Creusot anyway, and you might as well have some trains stop there. That’s why JR East, which is aggressive in abandoning rural branch lines, retains service to secondary towns on mainlines, which is where most people live anyway.

  • Max Wyss

    To Alon, about Ryanair:

    Of course, Ryanair gets subsidies from government. Indirectly, as most airports are government-owned. First, they ask for lower fees, for the privilege to serve them, at least for the first few years, and as soon as they no longer get a preferred treatment, they stop service within days (such as it happened in BSL recently). Additional indirect subsidies are that they very often operate at secondary airports (Frankfurt is in fact Hahn, about 50 miles from Frankfurt in the middle of nowhere), but to better serve these airfields, roads have to be improved … who pays?

  • Max Wyss

    One thing is that IMHO, this “artificial competition” is problematic. And I have the suspicion that this concept has been influenced by people who have not much of a clue of railway operation, and in also not much of a clue of “network” (well, that’s something you also find among many railway managers, as more and more fare binding to a specific train becomes the rule (France, Italy); in Germany, it failed pretty badly).

    Anyway, the main advantage newcomers have is that they don’t have much non-productive labor cost. However, there is not really a competition if a “guest operator” runs one or two trains a day.

  • Deacon

    One advantage Air travel has over Rail is the obvious one of routing and scheduling.
    Airports have anywhere up-to 5 runways they can use at any given time. Planes can get off the ground every 40 seconds at Atlanta, thats 2400 Flights per day 150 Million passengers per year. Those planes are from more than one Airline to a multitude of destinations.

    HSR can’t do that. Its use is as short haul replacement/Alternative i.e. NYC to Boston and long haul supplement/alternative i.e. NYC to LAX and HSR to SF.

    Competition between HSR companies will come down to price and service for the price. Travelling form Paris to London on any service will still take the same amount of time because all the trains use the same HSR line. You will just shop around for the cheapest ticket the benefit is maybe a financial one. Should a private company enter in competition, profit will be their aim and prices will be setup to maximize profits.

  • Max, Ryanair gets indirect local subsidies, but those are no different from those of any other company, private or public. Any large concern that creates traffic – an airline, a railway, a major factory, a shopping center – would eventually get local transportation improvements.

    National and international governments sometimes enforce anti-dumping laws prohibiting local governments from subsidizing companies in a way that distorts competition. They also enforce anti-trust laws prohibiting giants like Ryanair from playing localities against each other. But beyond that, there isn’t much to be done. Local governments want the jobs and the infrastructure. You can have strong anti-trust and anti-dumping protection even under a regime of privatization.

  • I think the rider loses for the reasons of simplicity and service frequency. If you have three operators instead of one, it is that much harder to know how and when to catch an intercity train. And instead of having a set, reliable schedule — say, every two hours between A and B — you have three operators running whatever is profitable for them, and the would-be rider now has to consult third-party agencies for combined schedules and ticketing. It’s possible this might result in more service than would be offered by one operator — which would be a waste of resources for all. Or they might provide less, owing to three separate pursuits of profit over service — which would decrease mobility. I don’t see any serious benefits of this kind of competition.

  • Martin Hr

    I dont think finding out when trains run will be an issue as we already have published European rail timetables which emcompass the operators of many countries. The excellent German railways site allows you to search this timetable and book some tickets.

    In the UK we already have this competition and it does cause some confusion – basically a use any train, any time of the day ticket is expensive but choose to use a particular train and the prices are very cheap. My wife and I went from London to Penzance (250 miles) and back for £35 each on set trains whereas the flexible ticket is £230 (and have done Glasgow to London in 1st Class with meal and wine for £16 each). When the media are moaning about rail being expensive they tend to compare a cheap inflexible Ryanair ticket with a flexible rail ticket – and fail to take account of the fact you can take a suitcase and hand luggage free on the train.

    I think that the European competition will end up being solely the budget inflexible model (with some premium coaches which will be very luxurious and expensive – easy to run both on a train) rather than the mixed model we have in the UK.

  • Adirondacker12800

    Airlines, pre-deregulation, were not interested in having low prices

    US domestic airlines weren’t allowed to set their prices pre-deregulation. That was one of the reasons to deregulate.

    The Civil Aeronautics Board set prices and city pairs the airlines could serve. If I remember correctly if you wanted to fly between NY and Miami your choices were Eastern or Eastern. If you wanted to fly between the coasts your choices were Eastern, United, TWA and American. Or American, TWA, United and Eastern. If you wanted to fly from NY to the west coast you had to go to JFK, there were no transcontinental flights from LaGuardia or Newark. If you wanted to fly internationally you had to use the airline of the country you were flying to or Pan Am unless it was to South America in which case you had the choice of the national airline or Braniff….

    They competed on service. Who had the best food, who had the plushest lounges, who had the prettiest stewardess. There were no stewards to speak of. Any airline ticket was good on any airline for a city pair because the fare was the same.Your itinerary got snafu’d they’d rebook you on a competitor. Merrily change your reservations without any charges. Miss your flight because you weren’t in the mood to go to the airport they’d rebook you. There were some discounts, 21 day advance purchase with a Saturday night stay kind of thing but you picked the airline based on service not price. … because the government said the base fare was going to be 147.22 for a flight between A and B and that’s what everybody charged.

  • Max Wyss

    To Michael D, message 9:
    Actually, it would be way worse. If the operators were for the maximum profit, you would see 9 trains within an hour in the morning, and 9 trains within an hour in the evening. And that’s it.

    And, of course, if you miss the train you have booked, or you are done before scheduled, you are screwed.

    This “single train, point-to-point” thinking makes the operators give up their fundamental strength: flexibility.

    Well.. thinking in a networked system is quite a bit more demanding…

  • Richard Lenthall

    Requote: “SNCF claims that its arsenal of hundreds of TGV trains, tens of thousands of employees, and good reputation will be too much”

    This sounds very similar to the mindset that BA had during the emergence of “No Frills” airlines. What SNCF will no doubt discover (as BA did) is the value of the missing foundation in that argument, Customer Loyalty, and why the customers were loyal to the brand in the first place.

    If a rival to SNCF can operate a train that is 50% cheaper, connects two centres of commerce or population with a reliable service (that may even take 15% more travel time) and meets, or even resets a customers expectations regarding onboard service provision I feel SNCF will get a rude awakening.

    SNCF and DB are beginning to display neurotic, even NIMBY, attitudes towards competition, each believing they have an unsurpassable business model but that they can enter a new market and exploit weaknesses in another. Historically plenty of examples exist to prove what is likely to happen.

    My fear is that it will end up costing €25 to go from Paris to Milan with 1 train per hour, but then €25 to go from Milan to Como served only by age-old trains 4 times a day at inconvenient times.

    Remember, if you cut off the branches the tree trunk will die.

  • Richard -

    Your fear seems well founded — which is specifically why competition poses a threat to reliable operation of European rail. If the main-line companies are forced to compete to the death on their main lines, the secondary lines seem likely to shrivel and die.

    That said, considering the cheap prices SNCF already offers (not DB in general), it seems very unlikely that even the shrewdest competitor will be able to provide 50% cheaper service.

  • Max Wyss

    Well, it is not as bad as it can be, because on the costs side, there is not much flexibility. Track usage fees are the same (assuming that we compare comparable services). Capital cost is the same (a seat in comparable rolling stock costs about the same, no matter where it comes from, and new rolling stock must be approved first, which can be a horrendously cumbersome task, particularly when you are a newcomer (keep in mind that most of the staff of the newly founded approval agencies comes from the former monopolist). Staff cost is about the same, because there are anti wage-dumping requirements to get the operation certificates. So, where are the differences on the cost side?

    That also means that economically sensible lower fares can only be reached by increased productivity, or cross-subsidizing.

    That means that the real differenciation will most likely happen on the services field.

    However, high-end premium service is not very likely to be appreciated. They say that the Austrian RailJet Premium compartments are pretty much empty, and they apparently stopped equipping the cab cars with the Premium class (but that might also have other reasons, as it seems that they can not enforce the Premium class in the planned services to Italy).

    So, unless there are very strong operators, I have the feeling that they will disappear relatively quickly.

    On the other hand, such open access operators could be welcome wake-up calls for the state railways, particularly if their reputation is not the very best (and in this context, the statement by the SNCF is kind of ironic).

    Good examples could be Westbahn in Austria, or NTV in Italy, or DB for the channel tunnel services (I kind of hope that this will force the British harassing regulations, ehhh, immigration procedures, to be normalized (didn’t those … hear of passport controls in a moving train??).

  • Scoop

    Neither Yonah nor any of his supporters has explained why on earth people on well-traveled routes should subsidize others. Why on earth shouldn’t people who live on less popular routes pay their own way rather than expecting people who take the Paris to Lyon route to help them pay for their tickets? Even if you want to argue that all people have a fundamental right to cheap travel (which is a pretty dubious argument), it would make more sense to do it through direct taxes to everyone and some form of travel vouchers rather than making a small subset of society (main corridor travelers) bear the entire burden.

  • Scoop -

    While I reject your notion of my having “supporters” — I’m not running a campaign here, it’s a website — I’m still going to respond to your question.

    You’re right that one way to fund an equitable transportation system would be to impose direct, progressive taxes on the population and then allow people a certain amount of transportation per time period.

    However, there are many problems with that idea, namely that different people have vastly different travel needs and desires, and the idea that travel vouchers should be standardized would be problematic from that perspective. You could argue that all intercity transportation should be free, but if there are limited resources (which there are), that would be quite difficult to accomplish.

    The primary reason it makes sense to have some cross-subsidy between main line routes and smaller, less-used corridors is that it is in the national interest to provide reasonably priced travel to the entire country: doing so reduces mobility-based inequalities and increases economic activity in locations that aren’t along the main lines. Without a willingness to subsidize routes to areas in lower demand, the advantages of the biggest cities are only compounded — this makes life more difficult elsewhere and goes against the idea of national unity.

    Some would argue that I’m pushing for wasteful spending — such as building a rail line from Boise, Idaho to Helena, Montana simply because the people there are underserved, even though at the same cost, a similar rail line from Salt Lake City to Denver would carry far more people. I mostly don’t disagree with that line of thinking about capital spending, and I clearly think that investments should be prioritized.

    But once the line is in the ground, providing operations subsidies make a lot of sense for intercity travel for the reasons spelled out above. Operations subsidies, also, are far cheaper than capital expenditures, so the burden placed on users of the main line is limited.

  • Max, I think your view of how private operators would schedule trains is not what has actually happened in privatized systems in Asia. The commuter lines in Japan, which are almost all privately owned, run all day, and the busier lines run at 5-minute headways until midnight. The privately owned subway in Hong Kong runs frequent trains all day, too.

    Going after the off-peak market is good for profits. As we’ve discussed on previous threads in criticizing peak-only commuter rail in the US, the presence of good off-peak service allows people to rely on the trains more, which would induce them to take trains more. In the US, even people who work 9 to 5 may not take a peak-only train to work if they’re not sure they can take the train back home if they stay at work late. In addition, peak-only service requires split shifts, which costs a lot per employee and doesn’t save much on labor costs relative to employing more people with continuous shifts.

  • Yonah, I’m not so sure that having regional cross-subsidies for travel solves the problem of regional inequality. France is actually a good case study of a country where on the one hand Paris and Lyon subsidize travel for everyone else, but on the other hand regional inequality remains very high, higher than in the US in fact.

    The problem with infrastructure subsidies is that they don’t actually promote development. They bring the periphery into a colonial relationship with the core, weakening its ability to govern itself while not encouraging local business development.

    Cheap TGV service isn’t going to create much private-sector development in Rennes any more than it has in Le Creusot or Haute-Picardie. Even Lille, which is hailed as a success story of TGV-based redevelopment, remains one of Metropolitan France’s poorest regions. there isn’t much hope for subsidized travel in other regions, which do not lie at the crossroads of three cities as rich as London, Paris, and Brussels.

  • Max Wyss

    Alon, we are not talking of private operators owning their network, or acting as full service railroad. We are talking about the “me-too” operators which are picking the raisins. We also have to look at who actually owns many of those “private” networks… And I fully agree with you about that joke called “rush hour only service”.

    Anyway, where I see the issues is when the Société de Chemin de Fer des Petits Pains Espagnoles starts to operate high speed trains between Paris and Lyon with two trainsets or so. I would see less a problem if the Chemin de Fer des Frotteurs sur l’Eau Congelée would offer a daily round trip between Paris and let’s say Albertville (because there is no reasonable service, although there were overnight trains in the past).

  • Why is it going to be a problem if the SCFPPE runs HSR between Paris and Lyon? It would not be able to run rush hour-only service, because the depreciation on equipment purchase and the split shifts would force it to charge high fares. It would act as yet another hourly train from Paris to Lyon and back.

  • DBX

    The end result of this is all too likely to be something similar to the British privatization of rail, in which steady BR ridership gains from the late 1970s to the end of the 1980s were thrown into reverse for several years, the industry as a whole was thrown into chaos, the country lost much of its domestic rail equipment production capability, and with the branch lines cut loose from main line revenue, government subsidy soared far beyond what it had been prior to privatization. That’s not change I can believe in.

    I would like to pay particular attention to the subsidy issue and also to the shifts between different modes of transportation. Either government will have to pick up what SNCF and DB now cross-subsidize, resulting in an increased burden to taxpayers, or the branch lines will be lost and with them the possibility of end-to-end journeys by convenient public transport. If the latter happens, I suspect a lot of people are going to say, “Screw it, I’m driving.” I know I would.

    The end result of British privatization is an industry that is far more politicized and government directed than it was under public ownership, with vastly higher fares, and higher government subsidy. The investment banks that now own the rolling stock have made out very nicely though, as have unionized employees. And this is the model the EU wants for the rest of Europe??? On a positive note, one thing that has indisputably improved under privatization is railfreight, but only because British Rail did not see themselves as anything other than a coal hauler in the freight market. But even that poverty of imagination was escaped only because the winning bidders for the freight system forced the government to abandon this franchised “competition” system for freight and go with a semi-monopoly model. The resulting EWS railway (now DB Schenker) has thrived on being able to compete directly with trucking, not with other railways.

  • Richard Lenthall

    I agree with much of what DBX has submitted.

    Two things that DB does well is offer services where and when the customer would likely need them and not necessarily on an “every 15 minutes” basis throughout the country and also tickets which allow the traveller heavily discounted and instant group rover type tickets which aren’t valid on IC/ICE trains.

    Scoop submits a popular argument, “Why should taxpayers subsidise rural branch lines”, the instant reaction is they shouldn’t. However a popular problem in the UK is road congestion and the cost of access charges to the road network (subsidized through Car Tax). Leaving aside the argument for extra taxes/charges to rebalance the “Economic externalities caused by heavy car and road usage” (health and polution) Scoops argument still begins to unwind when comparisons are made between rural country lanes used by 3 cars an hour (which are still maintained at great cost to the taxpayer regardless of how often they are used and their overall importance to the entire road network) and rural branch lines which often sport much higher usage but are constantly under political and corporate threat. The return question therefore is “Should we therefore close or neglect rural country lanes to save money?” Of course not as they serve a purpose. My response is therefore that rural country branch lines and indeed urban branches should be supported although not by national government but by a holistic transport body that operates at the local government level.

    So back to the 2 DB examples.

    The “Lander” tickets that DB offers, allow up to 5 people to travel on non IC/ICE trains after 9am and all day weekends. This allows people to travel a great distance and promotes use of more rural routes and connections. This obviouslz improves ridership levels.

    In the UK trains to Bristol from London often go through to Weston Super Mare promoting direct “non-hassle through services”. What DB do is also ensure the reach of the IC/ICE services by extending the trains past primary destinations like Munich and Koln through to ssecondary destinations, often by surprising routes, but it still works by subsidising ridership . (As another quick example TGVs from Paris to Bordeaux go to Arcachon 2 or 3 times a day). This allows the TOC to use a train service that has already served it’s profitable aim to further subsidise the branch line or secondary service and increase awareness, ridership and revenue on the secondary route at minimal risk and cost.

    In closing, people should learn not to confuse the word subsidy with taxpayer money as there are many other “routes” for subsidy than the public purse.

    Finally, there are many more possibilities for support than just a single body or entity working alone. The future of branch lines and secondary routes lies with joined up thinking and team work. Whoever learns to work well together (be they SNCF and Acquitaine, FirstGreatWestern and North Somerset Council or DB and NordRheinWestFalen) at a really local level can look forward to progressive and enchanced usership. Decreasing politics and increasing cooperation and awareness will be the key.

  • Max Wyss

    To Richard Lenthall:

    The Länderticket is indeed a great deal. However, it is not cross-subsidized from the long-distance operation of DB, but its non-covered costs are paid for from the whole pot the individual Land (US equivalent: state; I don’t know of an UK equivalent) makes available to the various operators from which it orders transit services. That said, the Ländertickets almost always include private railways, as well as some bus operators (compare the validity maps for the individual Länderticket with the DB map, and you will find bus routes). In many cases, the networks of the Verkehrsverbünde of that Land are also included (such as Munich’s Verkehrsverbund is part of the Bavaria Länderticket). The objective of such tickets is to actually reduce car traffic … which actually can pay off because of reduced congestion etc.

    So, the main share of your Länderticket is actually paid by you and your fellow taxpayers … exactly as the non-covered costs of your local road is paid by you and your fellow taxpayers.

    DB’s offer “when it is needed”: Besides from real rural lines, it ends up as fixed interval schedules, sometimes extended by local services, often limited to the school terms. The lousiest interval is 2 hours, normal is 1 hour. Schedules are, as far as feasible and reasonable, harmonized, so that connections work reasonably well (IMHO a much more important element of successful transit).

  • Nathanael

    Who wins? RFF.

    After the unmitigated disaster that was Railtrack, Europe has wisely realized that the tracks have to be basically controlled by a government agency or equivalent. Since people still remember the Railtrack disaster, expect RFF to be quite conservative in its financial choices, charging more money for track access. Since RFF has to prove to the government and the people that it’s useful, expect it, like Network Rail, to continue to invest in major track improvements.

    Because the scheduling of a rail system really has to be centralized, expect RFF to take over scheduling and planning (like Network Rail in the UK). It’s all about RFF.

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