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Efficiency in Railway Operations and Infrastructure Management Roundtable

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Efficiency in Railway Operations and Infrastructure Management - Roundtable Chair's Summary

Railways play a major role in the passenger and/or freight transport sectors in nearly all OECD countries. The natural monopoly characteristics of rail service in some markets, driven by economies of density, result in economic regulation of railways in almost all countries. Governments are concerned, therefore, with the efficiency of the services that result, driven in part by discontent from shippers and passengers over prices. Fiscal pressure in the wake of the economic crises has increased attention to efficiency in many administrations as they seek to maintain passenger services under public service obligations whilst reducing compensatory payments. 

The ITF has sponsored a series of reports addressing the interrelated issues of railway structure and performance. All of these studies have confronted the question of how to measure the performance and efficiency of railways both in the sense of how one railway compares with others (cross-section) and how railways have changed as a result of policy interventions (time-series).

The purpose of this roundtable is to revisit the issue of how to define and measure efficiency, at the appropriate level of detail and with reasonably available data so that policy makers can evaluate the impact of past changes in railway structure and ownership and assess the likely outcome of future initiatives. The first task is to identify the performance indicators most useful for shareholders, regulators, policy makers and customers. The biggest challenge lies in the phrases “proper level of detail” and “reasonably available data”.