Management & Operations

Europe transport conference showcases innovation, privatization successes

Posted on August 1, 2002

Transportation professionals at the European Transport Conference in Cambridge, England, in September heard about innovation and studies aimed at increasing the modal share of public transit.

For London's Central Area Congestion Charging Plan, which will be implemented this February, 200 extra buses have been procured for service during peak hours.

"It will produce $130 million a year for reinvestment in public transport," said Michelle Dix, assistant director of Transport for London. "If it works, we will look to other parts of London."

In Manchester, 900 employees were relocated to a city center this summer when GUS Home Shopping moved from an edge-of-the-city building that had 750 free parking spaces. The new building included no free parking spaces so that all employees were given the same parking options.

Consultant Steff Whitfield said that is a good opportunity for transit to step in. "Large business relocations are a great opportunity for [transit], but several operators in Manchester are unwilling to offer initial discounts on weekly and monthly passes," she said. "It's unrealistic to expect someone who hasn't been on a bus or local train for years to buy an annual pass straight off."

She said some transport operators were also reluctant to offer discounts to those who had used transit to reach the former offices, even though they would now be making a different journey, quite possibly with a different operator.

New Eurostar Chief Executive Richard Brown, formerly commercial director of the National Express Group Rail Division, assessed U.K. privatization at the conference. He credited the intercity and freight rail and the vehicle leasing sectors as examples of successes in privatization.

"Both achieved significant growth and the introduction of more devolved management and private sector skills," he said.

The failures had been unreliability of new trains, a decline in punctuality and problems with funding and managing maintenance and renewal of infrastructure. Brown welcomed the replacement of Railtrack with non-profit distributing company Network Rail.

Across Europe, hybrid and combination transit systems are being introduced. Rainer Hesse of TransTec Hannover reviewed examples and concluded these systems were often exemplars for success, notably in offering attractiveness to passengers and in cost efficiency. He said mixing rail-based technologies was especially effective in providing city-suburb services while accessing popular locations directly.

"Most use affordable, off-the-shelf products complemented by a small number of purpose designed elements," he said.

In Saarbrucken, Germany, a disused railway line and track-sharing with DB was used. A bi-modal, dual-voltage line opened in 1997 and has already been extended several times.

"Relatively high cost of bi-modal rolling stock was compensated by the affordability of infrastructure," said Hesse.

The German line is a cross-border system. The French section between the border and Sarraguemines was electrified to the German standard. The tramway section operates on line of sight conditions. The services move seamlessly between two sets of safety regulations without problems.

Bus routes were altered to become feeder services. The system, the first to operate across national borders, is part of Saarbrucken's master plan and has changed traffic patterns.

— Brian Baker

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