Skip to main content
European Commission logo

Railways: Competition and Basic Mobility

Switzerland Flag
Complete with results
Project Acronym
D2 (NRP 41)
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Transport mode
Rail icon
Transport policies
Societal/Economic issues


Background & Policy context

The NRP 41 was launched by the Federal Council at the end of 1995 to improve the scientific basis on which Switzerland's traffic problems might be solved, taking into account the growing interconnection with Europe, ecological limits, and economic and social needs. The NRP 41 aimed to become a think-tank for sustainable transport policy. Each one of the 54 projects belongs to one of the following six modules:

  • A Mobility: Socio-institutional Aspects
  • B Mobility: Socio-economical Aspects
  • C Environment: Tools and Models for Impact Assessments
  • D Political and Economic Strategies and Prerequisites
  • E Traffic Management: Potentials and Impacts
  • F Technologies: Potentials and Impacts
  • M Materials
  • S Synthesis Projects
  • Analysis of the rail reform 1996/99 in Switzerland and reforms in other countries.
  • Development of new reform models, which are feasible - technically as well as economically.
  • Comparison of the rail reform 1996/99 with the reform model and further: derivation of suggestions for reengineering public transport in Switzerland.

The report presents the rail reforms of Germany, France, the UK, and Sweden, and compares them to those taking place in Switzerland. The report illustrates the general features of the reforms, the influences from politics, and the regulations for competition and corporate structures for each country. Solutions vary greatly with regard to their political foundations and also their entrepreneurial viewpoints. Switzerland has chosen a combined solution comprising elements from various models. The research study makes the distinction among three reform models (A, B and C) characterised by different levels of links I, II and III (level I as the provision of rail transportation; level II as system control; and level III as the development and operation of rail infrastructure).

  • Description of the three reform models and selection of the best one for further comparison and evaluation.
  • Comparison of the Swiss rail reform with the reform models, with focus on:
    - transport safety;
    - different treatment of passenger transport, freight traffic and long distance and regional transport;
    - system priorities and system integration;
    - price structure of the use of infrastructure, and competition in public transport offers;
    - conflicts of interest from multiple functions of public sector institutions;
    - rolling stock leasing, invitations to tender, and response to resistance.
  • Evaluation and perspectives of the rail reform of 1996-99 with focus on:
    - The rail reform as part of an overall public transport policy;
    - market and companies;
    - politics and the law;
    - sustainability of public transport.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
Swiss National Science Foundation SNF
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


The evaluated basic model provides for the vertical disintegration of existing companies, partial horizontal re-integration, and with particular attention to the three functions of central importance for the overall system. Economic compatibility of rail transport should be increased by rail reforms as these should create closer contact with customers, and secure public services at the same time. However, the changes that have taken place since the beginning of 1999 are inadequate. This research study concludes that railway transport competition and public services are not incompatible. Active promotion of competition and efficient development of public services should lead to new dynamics and larger market shares in public transport, with the accompanying benefits for customers, employees and the environment.

Policy implications

Of importance are: the implementation of the Rail Reform 1996-99 (in particular network access, deregulation of freight transport, and relationship between Federal Government and SBB); the implementation of the regional transport reform (review of Railway Act 1995/96), and funding priorities. As a further step in a staged Rail Reform, technical issues (e.g. railway liability insurance) and the consolidation of investment funding will follow. Then our suggested reforms could be initiated.

Individual railway companies are not capable of designing the fundamental re-engineering, and altering the framework conditions (comprehensive open access, scarcity pricing for infrastructures). Hence, impulses for further reforms must come from federal and cantonal government authorities as owners and legislators with different responsibilities, which require harmonised procedures, and agreements with railway company management. We would suggest an additional 'top to bottom' strategy for federal and cantonal owners, in order to initiate nation-wide re-engineering with a common direction of impact. Following reform areas as important elements for future programmes: infrastructure – capacity management; competition, network access and service ordering; separation of traffic – infrastructures; development of systems integration; infrastructure ownership.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


Contribute! Submit your project

Do you wish to submit a project or a programme? Head over to the Contribute page, login and follow the process!