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Regulation, trust and contractual incentives around transport contracts – Is there anything bus operators can learn from public air service contracts?


  • Merkert, Rico
  • Hensher, David A.


This paper compares recent experiences in contract negotiation and subsequent commitment in public air services with the bus industry. The heart of the paper is a survey of European and Australian regional airlines, which we mirror with revealed experiences of bus operators. We aim to identify a number of elements in the contracting regimes that have exposed ambiguity and significant gaps in what the principal (e.g., transport department) expected, and what the agent (airline or bus operator) believed they were obliged to deliver. Ultimately airline and bus services are similar in that public authorities procure transport services that are desirable for the society but would be unprofitable without government involvement. In both sectors (theoretically fairly similar) public transport contracts are used, and those usually include obligations and performance measurements. In terms of similarities, one of the surveyed contract details that had a perceived high clarity in both industries was “payment procedures” and amongst those with rather poor clarity was also in both industries “incentives to improve performance and grow patronage”. We also show differences between regional air services and bus operations with regard to performance measurement and pre-specified obligations. Because of the strong safety culture around air services we find that regulation and trusting partnerships are even more important to aviation than to the bus sector. Because of the high level of trust but also because of simpler and more complete contracts in aviation, there is much less (re-)negotiation going on compared to the bus operations.

Suggested Citation

  • Merkert, Rico & Hensher, David A., 2013. "Regulation, trust and contractual incentives around transport contracts – Is there anything bus operators can learn from public air service contracts?," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 67-78.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:retrec:v:39:y:2013:i:1:p:67-78
    DOI: 10.1016/j.retrec.2012.05.025

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stanley, John & van de Velde, Didier, 2008. "Risk and reward in public transport contracting," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 20-25, January.
    2. Alchian, Armen A & Demsetz, Harold, 1972. "Production , Information Costs, and Economic Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(5), pages 777-795, December.
    3. Hart, Oliver & Moore, John, 1990. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1119-1158, December.
    4. Williamson, Oliver, 2009. "The Theory of the Firm as Governance Structure: From Choice to Contract," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 6, pages 111-134, December.
    5. Williamson, Oliver E., 2010. "Transaction Cost Economics: The Natural Progression," Journal of Retailing, Elsevier, vol. 86(3), pages 215-226.
    6. Riordan, Michael H. & Williamson, Oliver E., 1985. "Asset specificity and economic organization," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 365-378, December.
    7. Kappes, Jan Willem & Merkert, Rico, 2013. "Barriers to entry into European aviation markets revisited: A review and analysis of managerial perceptions," Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 58-69.
    8. Merkert, Rico, 2010. "Changes in transaction costs over time - The case of franchised train operating firms in Britain," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 52-59.
    9. Hensher, David A., 2010. "Incompleteness and clarity in bus contracts: Identifying the nature of the ex ante and ex post perceptual divide," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 106-117.
    10. Merkert, Rico & Hensher, David A., 2011. "The impact of strategic management and fleet planning on airline efficiency - A random effects Tobit model based on DEA efficiency scores," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 45(7), pages 686-695, August.
    11. Hensher, David A. & Stanley, John, 2008. "Transacting under a performance-based contract: The role of negotiation and competitive tendering," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 42(9), pages 1143-1151, November.
    12. Saussier, Stephane, 2000. "Transaction costs and contractual incompleteness: the case of Electricite de France," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 189-206, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Wretstrand, Anders & Holmberg, Bengt & Berntman, Monica, 2014. "Safety as a key performance indicator: Creating a safety culture for enhanced passenger safety, comfort, and accessibility," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 109-115.
    2. repec:eee:retrec:v:69:y:2018:i:c:p:173-179 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Chao, Ching-Cheng & Chen, Hsi-Tien & Yeh, Tai-Lin, 2015. "A comprehensive relationship marketing model between airlines and travel agencies: The case of Taiwan," Journal of Air Transport Management, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 20-31.
    4. repec:eee:retrec:v:69:y:2018:i:c:p:135-143 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:eee:transa:v:116:y:2018:i:c:p:327-338 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Epstein, Bryan & Givoni, Moshe, 2016. "Analyzing the gap between the QOS demanded by PT users and QOS supplied by service operators," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 622-637.
    7. repec:eee:retrec:v:69:y:2018:i:c:p:116-125 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Lidestam, Helene, 2014. "Sustainable bus transports through less detailed contracts," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 141-146.
    9. repec:eee:retrec:v:69:y:2018:i:c:p:430-437 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Merkert, Rico & Hensher, David A., 2014. "Open access for railways and transaction cost economics – Management perspectives of Australia's rail companies," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 227-236.
    11. Wegelin, Philipp & von Arx, Widar, 2016. "The impact of alternative governance forms of regional public rail transport on transaction costs. Case evidence from Germany and Switzerland," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 133-142.


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