Does competitive tendering improve customer satisfaction with public transport? A case study for the Netherlands

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

organisation - contracting, organisation - competition, place - europe


Competitive tendering in public transport, Satisfaction, Service attributes


During 10 years experience with competitive tendering of regional and local public transport in the Netherlands, national average trip satisfaction of passengers increased from 6.84 to 7.25 (+0.41). This is a remarkable improvement, but a closer look at the data reveals that also in regions without competitive tendering the improvement in satisfaction was substantial. The difference in the improvement for regions with and without tendering is only +0.06. Tendering led in the majority of concession areas to an improvement of average trip satisfaction, but in some 40% of the cases a deterioration was observed. A change of operator in general has a negative impact on satisfaction. We also find that the effect on satisfaction of early tendering is larger than of later tendering. This may well be the consequence of a shift in emphasis of authorities and operators from quality improvement to efficiency improvements. The model building and analysis is based on the comparison per year-pair of regions tendered versus regions non-tendered (in that specific year-pair). So we compare the effects on satisfaction of tendered regions relative to non-tendered regions.

An analysis concerning the weighted satisfaction judgments of 15 underlying service attributes revealed that ‘service frequency, on-time performance, travel speed, and vehicle tidiness’ contribute the most to the effect on satisfaction in the tendered regions. We found that new vehicles impact highly on satisfaction with travel speed and vehicle tidiness. The emphasis in the tenders with increasing service frequency, led to an increase in satisfaction but, may have a deteriorating effect on (the satisfaction with) on-time performance.


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


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