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Liberalization of the railways

Europe wants to press on with liberalization of the railways. This means that other rail operators may start passenger service on the Dutch rail network.

The goal of Europe is to increase quality and give passengers a choice by introducing more competition. But there is any real competition on the railways?

Operators make a bid for a concession for a passenger revenue service on a section or region for a fixed period. The many parties providing a concession, namely regional and provincial governments, mainly select the offering that requires the least public money to run the service as requested.

But operators go through great creative lengths in producing the cheapest offer possible. Whatever the result, out of this the passengers only get a monopoly from a certain train operator for a certain period on a line. For them there is no choice.

Some advantages of a new operator are that there are often new vehicles that meet the latest and highest standards of comfort, environment and cost. There is also room for innovation and / or insights.

But the existing employees are also taken over. They only get a different uniform fitted. The passenger with its characteristics also remains the same. A disadvantage of such a concession may be that lines disappear, staff can be cut or employment be tightened. This produces tension with other carriers.

Because of the many decision makers the public transport becomes a clock who’s every cog in the clockwork does its own thing. Then you have an unreliable clock that may show the correct time twice a day, but is pretty useless otherwise…

In public transport it is important that operators work together. The ongoing liberalization without strict control from above will see operators pursue their own interests. A normal reaction because every individual, every department within the company, between companies each have their own interests. Companies or personnel no longer work together, but ask who is going to put up the bill.

Without a governing control, all the operators’ staff must comply with more rules that limit them in improvising in emergencies. Staff cannot decide themselves what to do to serve the passenger best. Despite that the staff have the knowledge to safely do so.

If we want to allow more operators on the railways then there must be a certain vision behind it. A central control that governs on the whole system, sets requirements, takes responsibility and makes decisions about rolling stock and carriers. Just like a clock, the public transport needs someone from outside to synchronize the time. Because from within the clockwork, you cannot see what time it should be. You only get a reliable time from the clock if each cog does exactly what it should do.

Interests of operators must be subordinate to that of the passenger. Furthermore, operators should not get in each other’s way or service the same section. And a passenger has no interest in a particular operator, but decides on the basis of time and place. A single operator must therefore service a whole section.

The Freedom of Mobility Foundation proposes to separate the intercity and local trains. In the vision of the foundation are 9 intercity lines and 16 sprinter lines. Each line is separated from the other. Maglevs run on intercity lines and Interregional Sprinter on the sprinter lines. This allows up to 9 or 16 different operators running these lines.

The governing central control sets requirements for stock and operators such as to eliminate operators own interests overrunning that of the passengers. Operators are therefore solely responsible for the service. This also allows for a single operator to service the whole network, if there is a reason to do so.

The central control also governs the RegioTram, which can be run by several operators. This will reduce transfer and waiting time for the passengers. In short, liberalization of public transport is possible if there is one central control governing the whole system.