Evaluating the roles and powers of rail regulatory bodies in Europe: A survey-based approach

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - rail, place - europe, land use - planning, land use - impacts, organisation - management, organisation - competition, organisation - regulation, economics - benefits, literature review - literature review, planning - surveys


Regulation, Railways, Competition, Cost, Structure


European railways have been shaped by multiple reforms since the mid-1990s, covering industry structure, market opening and economic regulation. However, the literature has given little attention to the latter; namely the evolution and impacts of regulatory reforms amongst Europe's railways. This paper fills this gap by providing an up-to-date, bottom-up assessment of current rail regulatory practice in Europe. We develop a survey of economic regulators across Europe, thus complementing top-down studies of the impact of economic regulation by enabling a richer insight into regulatory activity and its impacts. The questionnaire is based on a review of the literature on ideal regulatory characteristics across multiple industries. Our results show that European rail regulators, in general, exhibit many of the features of ideal regulation; in particular around key features such as independence, resourcing, longevity and expertise, transparency and in turn stability and predictability. However, we find that rail regulatory bodies could take a more proactive role in shaping track access charges, given their importance in respect of efficient use of the network and maintaining non-discriminatory access. Importantly, there is also scope for regulators to play a greater role in regulating the efficiency and quality of infrastructure managers, and potentially becoming more involved in the designing stages of passenger market opening as it emerges; and these changes could deliver substantial beneficial impacts for rail users and funders across Europe.


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


Transport Policy Home Page: