Resilience of Transport Infrastructure and the Role of Competition in Periods of Economic Crisis

Resilience of Transport Infrastructure and the Role of Competition in Periods of Economic Crisis


N Painvin, Fitch Ratings, FR


Based on empirical evidence showing strong volatility in demand patterns for facilities in the sectors of toll roads and airports, this presentation shows how their exposure to competition has caused severe traffic declines during the downturn.


During the economic crisis of 2007-2010 the infrastructure asset class as a whole demonstrated strong economic and financial resilience. But within the asset class, performance has been varied. Resilience is rather a function of the position and role of the asset in the infrastructure system.

The overestimation of the essentiality of infrastructure assets during the economic boom years of 2003 to 2007 led to the financing of several projects which now appear to be very frail. Some assets have experienced large traffic declines during the crisis, with some facilities losing up to 20% traffic year-on-year.

In most cases, affected facilities were “peaker facilities” that exist specifically to relieve congestion on primary assets in the same corridor or catchment area during peak traffic periods. Peaker facilities naturally pick up most, if not all, traffic growth during peak times but, conversely, suffer far greater traffic contractions during downturns. Since the peaker facility has a much smaller traffic base than the corridor as a whole, the result is that such facilities are vulnerable to very volatile traffic performance.

Empirical evidence suggests that this phenomenon, what I termed the “Corridor Leverage Effect”, explains much of the severe traffic decline observed at certain Spanish toll roads, some London airports, in the San Francisco-Oakland airport system and on some US “managed lane” toll roads, amongst others. These examples are used and developed to study and illustrate the phenomenon.

Infrastructure, Resilience, Traffic decline, Competition, Congestion, Corridor leverage


Association for European Transport