New report sets out lessons for UK from Dutch public transport 'laboratory'

Tuesday, August 31, 2010
2 buses in the Netherlands

Ten years of integration, devolution and competition in local transport

For the first time, transport policy makers in the UK have a concise account of how, over the last ten years, the Dutch have reformed and transformed local public transport through devolving integrated local public transport networks on a competitive basis.

The report (by Dutch consultants, Inno-V) shows how in 2000 the Netherlands took the bold move of decentralising responsibility for local public transport networks to local and regional authorities leaving them free to franchise out the provision of those services in whatever way best met local circumstances and aspirations.

This makes the Netherlands a laboratory for how different approaches to devolving and franchising integrated public transport networks work in practice.

The report - 'Public transport tendering in the Netherlands' - can be downloaded here.

The report shows that the bold shift to local control has resulted in:

  • greater efficiencies
  • significant enhancements in service levels and the overall local public transport offer whilst retaining integration
  • stable bus patronage
  • rising levels of customer satisfaction
  • high quality bus fleets
  • a formal role for passenger groups in franchise development and changes
  • moves to pool transport budgets and fleets for social services, healthcare, education and public transport

Jonathan Bray, Director of the pteg Support Unit said:

‘The Dutch have done transport professionals in the UK a favour by trying out so many different approaches to the franchising of integrated public transport networks – from which we in the UK can now learn. The diversity of franchising environments – from deep rural to mega conurbations – also provides a series of useful parallels for transport decision-makers here’

‘Overall this report shows that the Dutch have retained their commitment to integrated, high quality public transport – but have also managed to do this within a framework of decentralising responsibility for local public transport whilst driving better value for money through franchising.’

Jonathan Bray added:

With the Government committed to devolution and achieving better value for money this report should be required reading for the Department for Transport as they grapple with the considerable challenges ahead. The ‘not invented here syndrome’ just isn’t good enough anymore when transport could learn so much from what our near neighbours have already achieved.’

The report sets out how control of all local public transport is now decentralised with local transport authorities responsible for franchising out services through competitive tender (except for the three large urban municipal operators).

This process takes place with a national framework of a:

  • commitment to integrated national ticketing – via smartcard
  • national public transport information service
  • very high degree of integration
  • strong emphasis on cycling provision
  • support for coordination of transport and land use planning

The report also identifies some of the key practical lessons for transport planners in franchising of local transport networks, including:

  • finding the right balance between encouraging private sector innovation, protecting minimum standards and realising the public sector’s objectives but in a way that provides good value
  • trade offs between the sophistication of incentive regimes and the ability of the market to respond to that complexity
  • managing the transition to the radically new service patterns that franchises can introduce


For more contact Jonathan Bray on 0113 251 7445 / 0781 804 1485