Governance in Railway Networks

Governance in Railway Networks


F Peschelt, FU Berlin, DE


Railway Networks need clear rules, clear missions, and sustainable funding, but governance options vary. A new governance-theory approach and a specifically designed institutional model help comparing five european national networks.


?Governance in Railway Networks? combines a new governance-theorizing approach and a specifically devised qualitative governace model to compare European rail networks. Taking into account the entire scope of individual institutions involved in running a rail network, the paper goes beyond existing research, which is primarily limited to cost structures and economic models. Furthermore, the paper examines various patterns of coordination depicted as structures of ?bound governance?, in which public bodies, regulators, operators and manufacturers work and interact according to largely undisputed rules. One among three basic types of governance, ?bound governance? is looked at in a number of domains, ranging from the legal and political framework, contracts, day-to-day coordiantion, funding, infrastructrure monitoring and control, to rolling stock management or human resource practice. Preliminary findings suggest that railway networks are run more successfully if a system of bound governance prevails, because little energy is lost in disputes over rules and in hierarchical, behind-the-scenes, power-based governance. Drawing its conclusions on that basis, this paper introduces a new overarching model of governance structures, in a departure from the entrenched positions in the debate on the separation between infrastructure operations and train operations. It argues that the main concerns of railway reform involve not the separation of infrastructure operators and train operators but some kind of institutionalised separation of strategic authorities and the operating companies, regardless of public or private ownership. Five case examples from the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Sweden and Switzerland have been selected to reflect a large but still comparable variety of optional systems of governance. In its preliminary conclusion, this paper finds that the UK?s massive legislative and administrative efforts to pull the railway network out of the desastrous effects of the initial privatisation scheme, are seen as an example of successful bound governance. The same holds true for Switzerland?s well-established separation of government strategy and rail operations. The paper highlights successes and shortcomings in each national case, and closely examines the sometimes very different contexts of regional and national networks, infrastructure-wise, as well as concerning freight and passenger operations. The contrasted picture is particularly true of France, where the renowned technical and commercial prodigy of TGV comes along with some of the worst run-down infrastructure still in use in the five countries. France is also the home of a very unique attempt to separate infrastructure management and train operations without touching the integrity of the national railway company, and a series of creative and sometimes successful attempts to commercially revive long-declining secondary and local passenger and freight routes. The paper is highly critical toward the current German rail privatisation plan (now on hold), which includes no clear separation of responsibilities between the government and the Deutsche Bahn. The future development of Germany?s extensive railway network with its unique mixture of heavily congested and underused lines, secretive struggle between conflicting priorities in freight and passenger transport, is at stake, but the present institutional framework seem scarcely prepared for the task. Sweden has put a lot of effort into a modestly improved network facing some thorough questions. Its very early ventures into regionalisation and railway reform have inspired all Europe, but their relative success remains heavily debated. Using the governance approach and separation model, the paper attempts to draw a meaningful typology of railway networks as governance systems. A preliminary version of the paper was presented at 2009 MobilTUM and Transatlantic NECTAR Conferences. The present paper has seen significant updates especially concerning sucess indicators, freight operations and crucial recent developments in the five selected countrie?s railway networks. The author?s intent is to extend, once the ongoing PhD thesis is completed, the governance approach and model to comparative examination of railway networks worldwide.


Association for European Transport