Decomposing generalized transport costs using index numbers: A geographical analysis of economic and infrastructure fundamentals
We use the economic theory approach to index numbers in order to improve the existing definitions and decompositions of generalized transport costs (GTCs), and thus to obtain a better understanding of their economic and infrastructure determinants. Using this approach we accurately measure the contribution made to reducing GTCs by the variation in operating costs and accessibility variables, and discuss to what extent transportation policy has been successful in reducing GTCs in terms of market competition and infrastructure investments. To implement the optimizing behaviour of transportation firms when choosing minimum cost itineraries, we compile a new economic database on road freight transportation at a highly detailed provincial level, which is then embedded into a GIS to show the digitalized road networks corresponding to five-year intervals between 1980 and 2007. Average GTCs weighted by trade flows have decreased by -16.3% in Spain, with infrastructure policy leading the way in providing notable accessibility improvements in terms of lower times and distances. The contribution of infrastructure is double that of economic cost, whose trends are mainly driven by technological and market determinants rather than by specific competition and regulatory policies promoted by the administrations. We find large territorial disparities in GTC levels and variations, but also significant clusters where the market and network effects on GTC reduction show relevant and diverse degrees of spatial association. We finally conclude that after three decades of active transportation policy aimed mainly at intensifying investment in road infrastructure, there has been a significant increase in territorial cohesion in terms of GTCs and their components.
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