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Economic impact of new and improved rail lines: case studies and method

Corrections All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. Although such figures seem not too impressive in relative terms, railways are often seen as a key component in the implementation of more effective transport policies in many countries. They can in fact represent a valid competitor to road transport, since they present attractive features such as their higher transport capacity both for passengers and freight , higher safety standards, or the possibility of easily implementing electric traction that can help in limiting environmental impacts.

For instance, CO 2 emissions per traffic unit in rail transport are less than half than those of road transport for passengers 40 vs. In congested urban areas, railways can transport a number of passengers per hour larger by an order of magnitude compared to road transit lines, and even much more if one considers private cars, with comparable space consumption for the infrastructure. Rail transport is also safer than road transport, averaging 0. Considering those factors, railways systems are more or less heavily subsidized in many countries to promote their use versus private cars.

Regulatory reforms have therefore been promoted in the last decades to increase the efficiency of railways operations, such as both vertical and horizontal separation and the opening of a former monopolistic market to competition. The extent to which such reforms have been successful is much debated, since one inherent problem is related to the difficulty of actually evaluating the efficiency of railways operations Makovsek et al.

In addition, much like in other forms of public transport, subsidies are given to achieve indirect benefits through the implementation of the service, such as social welfare or the limitation of environmental impacts. In such case, it would be more appropriate to consider the extent to which such transport policy goals have been achieved through an effectiveness analysis, rather than limiting oneself to check if either technical or allocative efficiency has been reached through the measurement of outputs and inputs, like for an ordinary industrial process in the private sector Diana and Daraio, In more general terms, efficiency analyses could be turned into a more powerful decision support tool for different stakeholders in the transport sector if they considered some of the wealth of indicators that are normally employed in transport planning studies to monitor the implementation of policy measures, such as in Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans Wefering et al.

Therefore we focused mainly on passenger railway services serving both suburban and intercity trips. While we do not consider those researches exclusively focused on freight services, for which the evaluation framework would be completely different, the goal is to assess the extent to which the existing efficiency analyses related to such services are considering input and output measures that represent broader policy goals by encompassing effectiveness and therefore be considered as monitoring tools for transport plans.

Considering the increasing importance of impacts in the evaluation of the performances of any transport system, and of railways in particular, we extend the analysis to include impacts. While a systematic review of transport planning studies dealing with the impacts of railways is outside the scope of this research, it is deemed important to check the extent to which existing economic analyses in this sector are enlarging their perspective beyond the mere consideration of efficiency issues that are related to the service production process.

To achieve this objective, we systematically review, in an original way, the scientific literature dealing with efficiency analyses in the railway sector being published up to , therefore updating a previous review in this sector by Oum et al. There are several reviews on efficiency and operational research methods applied to the public sector see, e.

Core areas of research include:

The paper unfolds as follows. The next section illustrates the methodology followed to review the existing studies. Section 3 describes the main impacts, which could be relevant to account for. Section 4 analyzes the keywords of the reviewed papers using the software tool VOSviewer. In Section 5 a description of the main inputs, outputs, external variables adopted in the different papers is reported. Section 6 reviews the main techniques applied in the surveyed papers, while Section 7 analyzes their evolution over time together with the data used. Section 8 concludes the paper.

The objectives of this paper are framing economic efficiency studies into a transport planning perspective including impacts. By doing this, we aim at offering a critical discussion of the existing empirical studies, relating them to the main methodological approaches which have been used so far. These objectives are challenging. In order to achieve them we developed an original review approach. It combines integration of different analytical frameworks engineering, economics, impacts , systematic review techniques, and advanced mappings.

It offers a systematic and comprehensive classification catalog of inputs, outputs external factors used together with methodological insights for developing new methods for facing the complexity of the field rail transport efficiency within its extensive environment and face the societal challenges. Identification of the objectives of the survey in our case framing economic efficiency studies into a transport planning perspective, deepened to include impacts.

Summarizing the evidence through: 5. We show in the following how the above steps 2 to 5 were implemented. About the possible heterogeneity, bias, and quality of the selected studies, the methodology of the survey developed and applied in this paper tries to address this important point in the following way:. So the description that follows in the next subsection is important and should be taken into account by the users of this survey.

Finally, the last point pertaining to the interpretation of the findings of the review is addressed in the concluding section. For instance, the paper by Perelman and Pestieau has been excluded because it analyzes, in a comparative way, rail transport and post office services. Other papers e. We excluded also papers dealing with infrastructures and only freight, trucking industry transport services. Given the ambitions of the study, a general coordination of the activities on the search was agreed. Two independent searches were carried out and produced two lists of relevant selected papers according to the expert knowledge.

An additional search on impacts was added later on. Using this paper as a base, the list of papers that are citing it according to Google Scholar were inspected and an initial list of relevant papers Set 1 was identified based on the criteria mentioned in Section 2. In the following step, the list of papers that are citing any of the papers contained in Set 1 has been scrutinized, therefore identifying an additional set of relevant papers Set 2 where duplications of papers that are already in Set 1 are obviously removed.

It is worth noting that the focus of the search is shifting on more recent papers in the second iteration. Therefore, this literature search is more intensive on more recent works, whereas on the other hand it is not capturing any work published before This first bibliographic search identified 95 papers published from onwards. Beyond these, we have five review papers relevant to ours, plus some papers that are outside the review scope referring either to freight or to subway systems and were not included.

The list of papers belonging to this search has been composed with the following procedure: 1. The references of i Oum et al. Several searches on Google Scholar and Scopus database have been conducted by combining the following keywords: 1.


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From the obtained lists, papers were again selected based on the criteria in Section 2. The lists obtained by each bibliographic search were integrated and duplicates were eliminated, obtaining papers. After a second screening process involving the other members of the research team not included in the original search other 98 papers were excluded while papers survived.

Several searches on Google Scholar and Scopus were conducted from 10 March up to 10 April , by combining the following keywords: 1. From the obtained lists, papers have been discarded if they were not published on an international journal or were focused only on freight transport. This process led to papers. After a screening carried out on titles and abstracts, the final number of papers maintained for the analysis was A flow chart diagram according to the Prisma model www. It is reported in Appendix A. The summary of the evidence based on a relevant grid structure was defined after a few pilot grid tests.

All the selected papers have been summarized according to the grid structure. For each paper also the keywords, the authors, the abstracts, and other information reported in the paper have been collected. We also summarized the evidence by running a mapping exercise on the relevant keywords.

The mapping exercise provides information about relevant dimensions on the fields and opportunities for improving the methodological and empirical investigation on the subject see Section 4. The final number of papers retrieved for the analysis, as shown in Appendix A , was of , including 44 about impacts which followed a different grid analysis.

We classified each bibliographic item only the papers selected by first two bibliographic research, and not considering the impact list according to a grid that highlights the main relevant aspects of the work to facilitate the systematic analysis of the different inputs, outputs, and other variables used, different approaches, methods used, and the comparison of the obtained results. A structure of the grid is reported in Appendix B. The grid about the impacts, on the other hand, is focused on the main typology of impacts included in the analyses, which are summarized in Section 3.

Tables C1 and C2 in Appendix C identify the finally surveyed papers. From the discussion in the introduction, the importance of considering impacts in the evaluation of the performances of any transport system clearly emerges, and of railways in particular. As stated in the introduction, a systematic review of transport planning studies dealing with the impacts of railways is outside the scope of our research.

Nevertheless, we consider it important to analyze the extent to which existing economic analyses in this sector are enlarging their perspective to include impacts. To achieve this goal, the first step was to analyze transport policy documents that identify the different impacts of transport systems and recommend methodologies for consideration of them in the evaluation of mobility scenarios.

The considered documents are listed in columns in Table 1. Beyond some key reference documents at the European level, such as Maibach et al. The final list of identified impacts is presented in the rows of the table and they have been aggregated into the following five main categories: mobility and accessibility, environment, safety, social, and wider economic impacts. Cells in the table show which impacts are covered by the different documents. While some impacts related to congestion, environment, and safety in particular are considered in most documents, others are less commonly encountered, mainly because they are more difficult to precisely define, identify, and measure.

The purpose of the above exercise is twofold. On one hand, it is relevant in this context to show the potentially relevant impacts for their future inclusion in studies about the performance of rail transport through economic analysis tools. This should constitute an important item in the definition of a research agenda to advance the state of the art in the sector and to improve the assessment of the effectiveness of policies aimed at supporting rail transport.

On the other, we are interested in understanding the extent to which existing studies on the economic efficiency of railways are considering any of the above listed impacts, in order to identify any research gap, which is to say impacts that are considered in transport planning activities but less so in economic analyses.

For the latter purpose, we selected a set of 44 papers dealing with railways from the economics literature and considering any of the above impacts, and we checked which ones are covered. Table 2 shows the results of this analysis, that is, which papers among the reviewed ones deal with each specific impact. Consistently with findings from Table 1 , emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases are within the most frequently studied issues.

Most remarkably, beyond transport safety we notice that social and welfare impacts are also relatively frequent, which is often not the case in transport planning studies due to the broadness of implications and the difficulty in quantifying them. Among the remainder, accessibility analysis and travel time savings are on the other hand less frequently encountered compared to standard transport planning practice, where they often constitute the primary justification for a field intervention such as an infrastructural development.

The perspective of service consumers seems rather to be represented by considering transport quality issues, which is more typical of marketing research studies. We used the software tool VOSviewer www. VOSviewer creates term maps based on a corpus of documents. In general, the smaller the distance between two terms, the stronger the terms are related to each other.

We used maps for the keywords of the articles considered in our main grid. We extracted the relevant information from Scopus where we found 78 out of papers of our main list of papers the impacts were classified according to a different search as detailed in Section 2. VOSviewer extracts the keywords from the Scopus files. A first mapping is performed to verify that the thesaurus file performs the intended manipulations and to identify further groupings also based on the strength of the relationships shown in a graphical way.

The mapping can be repeated until the structure of the thesaurus is considered stable. Multiple thesauri can be used, with groupings that allow to see different aspects of the topic of interest. And if this may create some ambiguity to the analysis, it also allows some flexibility. As a matter of fact, the created maps that we will illustrate in the following should be considered only as exploratory tools, to detect broad features of the analysis.

In fact, in the following sections, we will analyze the content of the surveyed paper on the base of the main elements contained in the papers as gathered in the grid. To summarize, the creation of a term map based on a corpus of documents, by means of VOSviewer, the following main steps are required: 1. Identification of noun phrases and transformation of plural noun phrases into singular ones.


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Selection of the most relevant noun phrases, that is, the terms. The larger the difference between the two distributions measured using the Kullback—Leibler distance , the higher the relevance of a noun phrase. Each cluster may be seen as a topic. Visualization of the mapping and clustering results.

VOSviewer offers various types of visualizations. Some first observations are in order here; we identify two hotspots in the map, the first one in the central area highlights the relevance of nonparametric approaches in the reviewed studies. In particular DEA models appear as the most utilized when dealing with technical performance analysis. Technical performance is a keyword strictly connected to the DEA models showing a strong connection and centrality of these two issues in the reviewed studies.

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We also note the central role of DEA, which is in the deepest area but still isolated and at the boundaries of the mainstream methodological approaches. The second hotspot in the map shows that Europe as an international entity or as single nations is the area where most of the studies are focused. Interestingly, we find, connected to this point, a satellite spot referring to regulatory issues. More interestingly, close to this point appears the keyword related to stochastic frontier analysis, this suggests that those who focus their studies on regulatory and policy issues prefer this methodological approach.

Finally, we observe that effectiveness studies are quite far from technical and cost efficiency analyses. Figure 2 shows the time evolution of keywords clustered with different colors referring to time and the links that each keyword has with the others. We have focused on papers published after to simplify the map and give the reader a clearer view on the most recent trends. From the appearance of the map we can derive some insights about the evolution of the studies addressing efficiency and effectiveness of the rail transport.

Around the year , the studies focused prevalently on North America dealing with economic performance, cost performance, and policy issues. These themes were addressed still with more traditional tools based on the modeling of cost functions, regression analysis, and total factor productivity indices. Finally, from on, the assessment of service performance seems dominated by DEA, Asia appears as a main empirical investigation and Network DEA is introduced to investigate railway transport efficiency.

Railways employ a variety of inputs. Considering the basic classification of inputs in a production model related to transport industries labor, materials, and capital , we found a considerable variance in the definition of these classes. This is mainly attributable to the availability of sufficiently disaggregated data and to the specific aims of each study.

Table 3 shows the different variables related to physical measures of inputs, Tables 4 and 5 show the variables related to the monetary evaluation of inputs, inputs variables are ordered by type: labor L , capital K , and materials M and then by frequency of occurrence. Among the two other inputs, the stock of capital deserves a particular mention.

In railways, capital stock is roughly partitioned in way and structures capital, equipment capital primarily rolling stock , and land. It is worth noting that differences between operators may exist in terms of quality and composition of this highly heterogeneous input. To give an example of such heterogeneity, the rolling stock may differ in terms of composition, average age of the fleet, intensity of usage, and patterns of depreciation. Thus, capital is one of the most difficult inputs to measure correctly. In principle, measuring capital inputs in physical units poses several issues since authors use a vast range of variables and it is quite hard to define a unique unit of measure.

Beside the measurement of capital stock in units, the assessment of the economic value of capital is even harder. The perpetual inventory method see OECD, is the most widely used approach toward measuring stocks and flows of fixed assets, and in our opinion the most correct. It requires developing a constant monetary measure of rail capital stocks. Starting from the earliest records, the capital stock is accumulated by adding new investments, deducting an assumed economic rate of depreciation, and converting these to constant dollars by use of rail asset price indices.

Possible extraordinary maintenance of the assets is usually capitalized and thus should be considered as an additional asset. Another ambiguity relates to the book value versus the market value of assets.

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In principle, the actual market value of assets is the correct measure, however such data may not be available. In such cases book values of assets are used. However, operators may not apply the international accounting standards, being unable to determine the fair values of their assets. In such cases, since, depreciation reflects just a nominal amount of the assets value yearly consumed in the production process, it is appropriate to apply the current cost accounting method where current market value of the assets is obtained by multiplying the gross book value of assets by a suitable deflation index, depending on the age of the asset.

Finally, a third issue relates to the opportunity cost of capital. The opportunity cost of the capital is the expected rate of return of the best alternative investment of equivalent risk, namely the risk and consequently the expected rate of return from investing into freight services rather than high speed services is, in principle, different. Thus the risk to incorporate into the measure of the cost of capital should reflect the risk related to investing capital into activities similar to those analyzed in the models.

We noted that some of the reviewed papers limit their measure of the cost of capital to the rate of return of riskless activities or proxies such as treasury bonds , this underestimates the real cost of capital. Considering output, railways provide a great many services.

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Historically, the most important distinction in rail outputs was between passenger and freight services. Passenger services distinguish between intercity and commuter services. It is possible to categorize the output variables in three groups. A third group represents the financial counterpart of the second one, since it considers the service revenues see Table 6. From the supply side point of view, railway transport has a large variance in terms of seats available on trains used. Which output specification to use has been discussed intensively in the literature. Since the process of production is different from that of consumption, that is, due to public service obligations or other external constraints that do not allow a perfect matching between demand and supply.

To find out the source of poor performance, both supply and consumption variables should be used in the models. Most of the reviewed studies take into account an additional set of variables, which are listed in Tables These last ones cannot be considered as inputs or outputs of a production model. However, their introduction in the models is of paramount importance since they are able to capture aspects of the quality of the service i. The reviewed literature reveals a broad set of such variables that are often tailored to the purpose of each study.

We have clustered them into a few main classes describing the service characteristics, the network and technological aspects of the services, managerial and policy related variables. Finally we ended up with Tables The first cluster in this list refers to quality and service characteristics aspects Table 7 , two issues that are often not easily distinguishable through the variables that are shown in the table, since such variables are often relevant for both. We see here a reflection of the burgeoning literature dealing with quality aspects in transport.

Among the most commonly used variables we notice are those reflecting how the service responds to the demand i. Quality was also one of the key impacts according to the analysis presented in Table 2. Almost each paper analyzed in this review makes use of variables related to network and service characteristics in order to encompass the specific aspects of the services that are studied.

This produces a fairly vast cluster of variables describing aspects of the technology underlying the transport service such as high speed, level of automation, presence of tilting trains or other type of trains, level of electrification of the lines just to reckon the most used. This group of variables is strictly related to the quality of the service and therefore to cost efficiency and effectiveness by means of passengers served and service performance see Table 8.

Situational variables are typically considered to improve the comparability of results in the analysis of different systems.