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service design in competitive tendering in the netherlands; shifts between autorities and operators

Service design in competitive tendering in the Netherlands; shifts between autorities and operators
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Van de Velde, D.M.; W.W. Veeneman and L. Lutje Schipholt: Service design in competitive tendering in the Netherlands; shifts between autorities and operators. In: Herman Maier (Ed.), Proceedings European Transport Conference (pp. 1-17). London: Association for European Transport, 2006. International Proceeding (Refereed)

Wijnand Veeneman

The reform of public transport introduced in the Netherlands in 2001 is showing its first interesting results as about two third of the country (excluding the four largest agglomerations) has now been submitted to competitive tendering. Differently from many competitive regimes introduced in other parts of Europe, the Dutch regime aims at stimulating innovation in public transport. To this effect, a new passenger transport legislation allows the transport authorities to give operators the possibility to re-design the transport services (routes, timetables, fares, vehicles, etc.) during competitive tendering and/or during the contract period.

This paper focusses on the allocation of the tactical level (service design) between transport authority and transport operator and reviews a few of the opposite evolutions that can be observed in these practices since this first analysis. Besides presenting the essential features of the cases studied, the paper concentrates on the reasons that have led transport authorities to these opposite choices in terms of allocation of service design power between operator and authority in a second tendering round. The paper draws conclusions on the various (institutional) aspects that may have lead to these evolutions and sets a few questions for the future of the Dutch regime.

The cases presented show a wide variety of arrangements at the levels L3 (Governance) and L4 (Resource allocation) and the location of the tactical level within level L4 shows the most interesting changes in the Netherlands.

A main issue for the future is whether the practice across the country converge towards some common model. Will there be a tendency for the authorities to entangle ‘their fingers in the machinery’ or will the dream of the legislator come true? The current observations of the analysed cases, but also taking into account the rest of current practices in the Netherlands, seems to indicate a strong and/or probably growing involvement of the authorities at the tactical level; which also entails a substantial monitoring need. But it is too early to predict the outcome of the current learning process; many of the interesting new concessions, such as North Holland, South Holland or North Brabant, still have to start operating. It is only after a few years that will become more apparent whether this tendency is confirmed and whether it is the result of some intrinsic feature of the current regime at level L2 (Institutional environment), or whether it was only a temporary behavioural feature that could be overcome by emulation. The future will also tell whether the institutional setting proves fit to find the right balance at levels L3 and L4 between the equally undesirable extremes of uncontrolled central planning with route operators and ineffectively controlled network concessionaires.

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