Laperrouza, M. and Finger, M. (2008) “Dealing with standardization in liberalized network industries: Some lessons from the European railway sector”, presented at the Second Biennial Conference of the Standing Group on Regulatory Governance (ECPR), June 5-7, 2008, Utrecht.
The European railway sector is undergoing dramatic changes. During the still ongoingliberalization process most vertically-integrated railway operators have already been“unbundled”. The shift from integrated to disintegrated companies coupled with theintroduction of competition – so far in freight, but as of 2010 also in international passengertraffic – is having profound implications on the development and deployment of newtechnologies. In addition, within the framework of the Single European Market the mainstakeholders have now to work under the constraint of interoperability.The paper examines railway standardization processes within an interoperable environment.So far, the railway sector has a strong history of national standards development. In the areaof signalling, the result and current situation is therefore a patchwork of poorly interoperablesystems. The paper builds on a case study of the development and deployment of a coresignalling system – the European Rail Train Management System (ERTMS) – to illustrate the difficulties to coordinate a standardization process in such a deregulated environment. The paper questions whether, in the framework of the emerging technological and institutionalenvironment, the current governance of rail standards is suited to the EU?s objectives of acompetitive railway market.Through the introduction of ERTMS the paper discusses the role of the new European RailAgency (ERA) as the locus for coordinating the ERTMS standardization process. It makesrecommendations as to which actor(s) is/are best suited to govern the standardization of suchhighly complex and interdependent technical systems.