Estimation of the Social Costs of Train Delays in the Netherlands

Estimation of the Social Costs of Train Delays in the Netherlands


Fons Savelberg, KiM Netherlands Institute for Transport Policy Analysis, Pim Warffemius, KiM Netherlands Institute for Transport Policy Analysis, Eric Kroes, Significance, VU University Amsterdam


The paper investigates the social costs of train delays in the Netherlands. We distinguish between the stakeholders train passengers, freight shippers, train operating companies and infrastructure manager.


The reliability of a transport network is regarded to be one of its key performance indicators, both for car and for public transport. Investments in the infrastructure or other transport measures are often made because they enhance reliability. In car travel, it has become common practice to monitor the lack of reliability of the road network by calculating the costs of congestion. In rail travel, this is much less the standard.

On behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment we developed a methodology to monitor the social costs of train travel delays in a way that should be comparable to the calculation of congestion costs for car travel. In this paper we present a practical approach to do just that.

We distinguish between four types of stakeholders and identify the costs involved for each of them:

1. Train passengers
2. Freight shippers
3. Train operating companies
4. The infrastructure manager.

For train passengers there are first of all the costs of time losses due to actual late train arrivals. In addition there are the costs associated with the risk that any train may be delayed. This causes uncertainty or even stress to train passengers because they do not know exactly at what time they will arrive at their destination. To counter that, they may include buffer time in their journey schedule by departing earlier than strictly required according to the timetable. Another cost item is related to the evasive reactions of passengers in response to major disruptions. Passengers may be forced to make a detour (more time consuming), they may have to use another mode of transport (more costly) or they may postpone or even cancel their intended journey. We include the costs associated with these reactions. And finally we also calculate the costs due to increased discomfort when trains get more crowded as a result of disruptions. In estimating the costs of all these items, we use wherever possible detailed check-in-check-out databases.

Regarding freight travel we have chosen a more aggregate way of estimating costs of delays and unreliability, due to limited data availability. Finally, we tried to make an assessment of the additional operating costs as a result of disruption of train services for the rail operating companies and the infrastructure manager.

In the paper we describe the methodologies used for calculating the different cost items, and we present the resulting numbers for the Netherlands for the year 2016.


Association for European Transport