Contracted Rail Services in Western Europe


  • Bertil Hylén Statens väg- och transportforskningsinstitut (VTI)



deregulation, tendering, franchising, Western Europe


During the post-war decades more and more passenger rail services have been deficit making. Economic support for these services has often been provided as a blanket subsidy from the central government with little specification of the services concerned. The support is substantial, at least MECU 7 000 per annum in the European Union (EU) Member States alone. Gradually, however, contracting, tendering and franchising schemes are introduced. At the same time there is a tendency towards regionalisation and decentralisation of powers.

The services concerned can be of a very different character. They can be suburban highfrequency, high-density, high capacity services - these services are often the only realistic means to manage the extremely high volumes of traffic in for instance Paris, London or München. They can be long-distance cross-country services in the more sparsely populated regions of Europe where traffic volumes are too low to make operations on a fully commercial basis possible. Finally, they can be truly rural services where perhaps a bus would have sufficed for the volume of traffic concerned but where traditions and local opinion often prevent this change of transport mode.

Various schemes now emerge. Britain may be said to lead the franchising (and privatisation) league but other countries such as Germany and Sweden are further ahead in the regionalisation field.