To competitively tender or to negotiate – Weighing up the choices in a mature market

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

organisation - contracting, organisation - competition, mode - bus, place - australasia, organisation - performance


Competitive tendering, Negotiated contracts, Bus service contracts, Contracting model, Transaction costs, Efficient pricing, Supplier market


A key attribute of competitive tendering for the periodic selection of operators of subsidised public transport services is to secure the provision of specified services at efficient cost levels. This has proved particularly effective where services were previously provided by an inefficient monopoly operator. The arguments for the adoption of competitive tendering in preference to negotiation with the incumbent operator may be less clear-cut in other cases. Consideration is given to both theoretical and practical insights into the relative merits of competitive tendering and negotiation approaches in such situations. The limited literature on the topic is reviewed and insights and lessons identified. Influencing issues include prior conditions, the nature of the supplier market, features of contracts, negotiating and competitive tendering strategies and practice, accountability and transparency, and long-term market implications. The evidence suggests that ‘one size does not fit all’, and the choice will depend on specific circumstances. The relative merits of the two approaches for renewal of bus contracts are considered with regard to Adelaide, for contracts which have previously been awarded through competitive tendering. The paper draws out the main factors that could influence the authority’s choice between the options, and discusses the relevance of the findings to other situations.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


Research in Transportation Economics Home Page: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/07398859