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Drivers for vertical integration in the rail sector: using wagons as “relationship specific assets"

Monios, Jason; Bergqvist, Rickard


Jason Monios

Rickard Bergqvist


Purpose – This paper uses a combination of transaction cost economics (TCE), the resource-based view (RBV) and the relational view to analyse vertical integration in the rail sector, through which rail wagons are viewed as “relationship specific assets”.
Design/methodology/approach – The empirical analysis is based on a cross-case comparison of four case studies of intermodal operators in Europe, each exhibiting different levels of collaboration and integration between terminals, operators and sub-contractors.
Findings – Viewing rail wagons as relationship specific assets rather than merely transaction specific (TCE) or firm specific (RBV) demonstrates that wagon ownership is not only a good indicator of the level of vertical cooperation but of the existence of trust and learning within a collaborative environment.
Practical implications – the organisational setup is not derived purely from transaction or resource characteristics, but by the integration of processes through the purchase of assets that will be used to produce a service, with the expected levels of trust and commitment. In this sense, the role of the wagon as a relationship specific asset is a microcosm of the key elements of a successful intermodal transport system.
Originality/value – As one of the key operational aspects of the rail sector is the use of expensive equipment and the relative responsibility for fixed and moveable assets, an analysis of the use of rail wagons as relationship specific assets allows a more dynamic understanding of vertical integration in the rail sector than currently provided by TCE or RBV alone.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 31, 2015
Publication Date Aug 8, 2016
Deposit Date Nov 9, 2015
Publicly Available Date May 15, 2017
Print ISSN 0957-4093
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Issue 2
Pages 533-551
Keywords Railways; business management; econometrics; rail transportation
Public URL
Contract Date May 15, 2017


Drivers for vertical integration in the rail sector - using wagons as “relationship specific assets”.pdf (364 Kb)

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