A comparison of rail liberalisation levels across four European countries
The paper presents the results of a research on railway regulation and liberalisation in Italy, France, Germany and Spain. The analysed fields of regulation are the relationship between the State and the rail companies, network access conditions by operators, slot allocating and pricing schemes and how public service obligations are defined, paid and regulated. The aim of the paper is to give a comparative overview of the rail regulation from a critical point of view, rather than descriptive. The regulatory frameworks are outlined and then assessed according to their implications on the liberalisation level and on the effective market opening. The conclusions are that the actual level of liberalisation is still scarce and only in some cases the opening level is increasing. Market penetration of newcomers is significant only in niche markets. An issue emerging from the work is the opposing attitude of incumbent railways against liberalisation and the role of decision makers in backing this behaviour. The strategies followed to limit the outcomes of the liberalisation process are different across the country sample. However, all the incumbents argue with the self-referential declaration of efficiency, public service obligations and they claim to be under an excessive and unfair foreign competition. These arguments are yet embedded in legislative, organisational and economic settings supporting these positions like the common ownership of network and services, the permanence of dominant positions and favourable financial conditions.
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