Universal Service in the Provision of Transport to the Islands: a Research Agenda

Universal Service in the Provision of Transport to the Islands: a Research Agenda


S Levy, University of the Aegean, GR


This paper discusses the question of equity in the provision of transport to remote islands. It discusses the application of Universal Service and how it can be measured through a Utility based Accessibility indicator.


Insularity can be seen as a permanent form of peripherality. Paradoxically, dependent as they are on transport services, islands often fail to provide the necessary demand to be of commercial interest to private transport operators. Concurrently, serving remote islands entails a heavy budgetary effort and therefore, even where transport is subsidized, remote islands will tend to be underserved.
The European Union has been gradually bringing about changes in the legislative corpus concerning the provision of sea and air transport services, engaged in a process of growing liberalization. Nevertheless, full liberalization has been held back due to the acknowledgment of the necessity to protect island routes which are considered of lifeline importance to the regions concerned. In order to assist these situations, Member States can tender public service contracts or impose public service obligations (PSO) upon all shipping operators as a prerequisite to allow them to provide such island cabotage services.
However, until now, the imposition of PSO has been characterized by arbitrariness. PSO have been designed on a case by case basis, with no universal rule regarding minimum frequencies, mandatory ports, the quality of fares, and the obligation to provide continuity of service.
In this context, some authors (Panou 2007, Lekakou 2007, Chlomoudis, Pallis, Papadimitriou and Tzannatos 2007) have identified the need for PSO to become Universal Service (US) Obligations. US refers to providing a minimum set of services to every individual, regardless of his geographical location, at a specified quality and affordable price.
This paper proposes a metric for the US. We argue that the relevant goal of US is to provide accessibility to a basic set of goods and services, rather than providing transport per se. This set of ?merit? activities might comprise, but is not necessarily restricted to, emergency services, health care, education and employment (commuting), and a certain amount of social, cultural and recreational activities.
We then propose a theoretical framework for inter-island travel choices. According to these framework, the decision of whether to travel or not for given trip purposes is linked to the trip alternatives available, to the islanders? characteristics, but also to the perceptions of importance and on-island availability of the activities. If a model of island travelling is tested and calibrated, its parameters can be used to build a Utility-based Accessibility indicator for the islands. Accessibility is then measured through the expected ?worth? of travelling to perform an activity.
We believe that this paper can contribute to fill an important gap in transport literature, since there is hardly any research dealing with the question of transport to the islands. It proposes a research agenda for the comprehension of the determinants of inter-island travel choices.
Project Background
This paper is a part of a broader research project on Universal Service in Transportation. It sets up the theoretical framework for the study of the potential for application of the concept of Universal Service to the provision of transport services to the islands. This project is being carried out in the scope of the Transportnet programme (www.transportnet.org) and will much likely constitute the subject of the author?s PhD dissertation.


Association for European Transport