Damage or no damage from traffic: Re-examining marginal cost pricing for rail signalling maintenance

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - rail, place - europe, infrastructure - maintainance, economics - pricing


Marginal cost, Access charging, Econometric methods, Engineering methods, Rail infrastructure, Signalling maintenance


This paper re-examines the implementation of the short run marginal cost (SRMC) pricing principle with respect to rail infrastructure usage and empirically tests if there are rail infrastructure maintenance costs triggered by traffic but not caused by asset damage from traffic. This is important because current EU legislation stipulates that only costs related to infrastructure wear and tear from traffic are eligible for the direct cost-based element of track access charges. An econometric approach is applied to French panel data on signalling maintenance costs. The results show that the SRMC for infrastructure provision of these assets is not only related to asset damage costs caused by traffic, but can also be due to economic factors linked to increased line capacity utilisation: 1) higher cost per maintenance activity, and/or 2) increased preventative maintenance to curb delays. Our work offers an explanation as to why econometric and engineering approaches give different views of rail infrastructure cost variability and suggests that EU legislation on track access pricing may need to be revised.


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


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