Do direct awards lead to better public transport?

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, organisation - competition, economics - subsidy, ridership - demand, planning - public consultation


State ownership, Public transport, Direct award, Switzerland, Competitive tendering


The best public transport with regard to patronage numbers operates in Switzerland, with a demand that is much higher in Swiss than in comparable European cities. Further analysis reveals that, although the overall level of financial support for the public transport is very high in Switzerland, subsidies per passenger are comparatively low. It is a similar story in cities in England with very successful bus operators. Public transport in Switzerland is a public service provided mostly by companies in public ownership. Due to the lack of competitive pressure one would expect a rather moderate focus on passengers and innovations, if any at all, as well as lower levels of efficiency. The opposite is true.

Based on qualitative interviews, the model developed for the explanation of this success shows that the framework conditions favour stable, intrinsic motivation on the part of management and employees in public transport. This includes the central elements of: direct democracy, decision-making and budgeting at local level, together with non-commercial, local companies directly involved in the design of the public transport system, as well as a confidence-based management culture both with respect to and within the company. The success factors of the public transport system in Innsbruck (Austria) are structurally quite similar and confirm the explanatory model.


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


Research in Transportation Economics Home Page: