More value for money: competition in Dutch public transport

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Subject Area

organisation - competition


As from 1 January 2001, the Passenger Transport Act has become the legal base for urban and regional transport in the Netherlands, affecting the operation of bus, tram and metro as well as a number of unprofitable regional train services. The legislation represents a redistribution of power between the central government and the Public Transport Authorities (PTAs) by introducing competition via concession tendering and by redefining the relationships between PTAs and operating companies. Under the new law, PTAs retain the control on transport policy and determine the services to be provided at the strategic level. Operators are in charge of detailed design and actual operation of services. The policy goals and objectives of the organisation reform are to achieve better service quality, to increase patronage and to reduce operating subsidies. Besides, as a result of tendering unit costs were expected to drop, improving the overall system efficiency. As a consequence of decentralisation, PTAs have the opportunity to create a public transport network that will better meet the travel demands in their region in addition to promoting the objectives of national transport policy. Moreover, decentralisation would create conditions to facilitate better co-ordination between public transport planning and the related regional policies on e.g. infrastructure and housing. In order to determine the impacts of the new legislation, it was agreed in the Dutch Parliament that an evaluation programme would be carried out. The effects on the transport system, the financial effects as well as the implementation process are parts of this programme. This paper describes the set-up of the evaluation programme, the main results as well as the most important policy recommendations. The paper will focus on the effectiveness of the different instruments of the law (e.g. the tendering of concessions). As the restructuring of the transport market is an on-going process with changing objectives and shifting priorities, the assessment of the causal relationships are particularly difficult. Nevertheless, all of the following research questions were included in the programme’s ambition: · What was the purpose of the new Passenger Transport Act? · How has the legislation been adopted in practice? · What are it’s effects en to what extend do they meet the expectations? · What is the contribution of specific instruments of the new law? · What are suggestions for improvement of the new law? Finally, the paper will show the impact of the evaluation on the ongoing policy process.


Permission to publish abstract given by AET.