Regionalization of Railway Regional Passenger Transport : Experiences from France and Italy

Regionalization of Railway Regional Passenger Transport : Experiences from France and Italy


L Guihery, University Lumire Lyon 2 and LET, FR; C Burlando, University of Genoa, IT



The regionalization of railway regional passenger transport is part of the European reform of railway transport which is implemented at this time among the member states of the European Union in three main directions : first splitting the infrastructure from the activity of railway transport, which is achieved in both Italy and France ; secondly opening to competition the access to the network and, for this objective, France experienced on regional passenger transports some delays in comparison with Italy. And third achieving a regionalization of passengers regional railway transport which has lead to deep changes in the practices of regional railway passenger transport in France and Italy. This last objective is based on the will of inverting the trend of the decline of the passenger railway transport in French and Italian regions. The regionalization reform is today in both countries in process and will have some impacts on the regional service by opening the field to service?s contracts between transport authorities and operators (only the national operator SNCF in France). The need of clarification and better transparency of the relationship between the central state, operators and transport authorities, explains also the need for a deep and radical reform. In both countries, the transfer of the competency for regional transport has involved changes in the management of regional railway transport by the regions and has lead to new regional planning institutions and transport organization. If Italy is still planning for 2003 the opening of the activity to competition, France still consider the. SNCF, the French National Railway Company, as the only operator likely to do railway transport which is one of the biggest problem of the French reform.

We will first analyze the framework of regional railway passenger in France and Italy. For France, regional transport concerns 12 % of total passengers transport (without Region Ile de France, it means without Paris and region) and 27 % with Paris and region (50 % in Germany and in many European countries). The final aim of the reform is to offer a credible modal alternative to car mobility in urban areas by a better efficiency and services of rail transport in regions. This reform is linked with the development of a urban and regional mobility towards sustainable development.

We will then highlight the impact of the regionalization reform for both countries. We will show that regionalization is based on a double negotiation process : first, with the central State, it deals with the determining of financial grants due to this transfer of competence without transfer of charges. Secondly, it deals with a negotiation for establishing a convention Transport Authority / Regions and Operators. Organization and financing competence, communication, pricing, quality control will be competencies of the regions.

We will then conclude by showing the challenge and limits of the reform. What are the brakes of the regionalization reform in France and Italy ? The development of the reform in both countries is limited by the wish of the central state not to destabilize the financial situation of the national operators. In both countries also, the financial support of the Central State is an accurate issue of the future of the reform and has to be clarified. Our paper will also highlight the common problems of the regionalization reform : in both French and Italian regions, for example by investigating entry barriers in railway transport which are very high for newcomers. The regionalization is then facing three issues : 1) The issue of competition : for France, the SNCF remains the only operator in terms of the French Law of Orientation of National Transport (LOTI or Loi d?Orientation des Transports Intérieurs). The SNCF can find subcontractors like CFTA in the Brittany Region, but not the regions, which reveals one of the major limits of French experimentation of regionalization, that means the lack of competition. But the region can decide on the implementation of buses instead of rail transport, and then will be in conflict with the bus transport plan which is a competence of the Département (?county?), not the regions ! The maintenance of the monopoly of the SNCF on the railway network limits the success and the future of the French Experimentation of Regionalization : the regions cannot call for another rail-operator on the network. The monopoly of the SNCF is explicitly written in the French Regionalization Program. The experimentation of Regionalization is then based on loyalty and partnership principles.

For a relation which is unprofitable on the rail, the region is likely to propose a bus-option, even if there are some operators on the market, who are likely to propose a rail-service with lower costs, for example like the wold famous interconnected rail-tramway of Karlsruhe. The monopoly of the SNCF, which is not questioned in the French experimentation of Regionalization, remains one of the major problems of the reform and limits the chance for and development of an efficient regional railway transport in Regions. 2) The issue of support of the central state : the regionalization in France and Italy is characterized by little involvement of the central government, which tries, in the reform, to shirk these obligations rather than give, like in Germany, a signal and incentives for an efficient offer of railway service in Regions. 3) The issue of a renewal of the institutional framework of transport authorities : French and Italian perspectives towards regionalization are then facing an institutional issue : the sharing out of competencies leads to many major institutional disturbing in the field of public transport : for France, public urban transport is a competence of cities (and conurbation), interurban buses are responsibilities of ?Département? (?County?), railway transport of Regions. This French compartmentalized management of public transport is a hindrance for an efficient supply of public transport in regions. A better way would be a global organization of public transport, like in the German regionalization reform, which has stress out the role of a cooperative institution, the Zweckverbände.

The questionings of the institutional organization of public transport in France and Italy is then unavoidable : should the regions take all the competencies for public transport,


Association for European Transport