Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Production economics of a vertically separated railway – The case of the British train operating companies.

Cowie, Jonathan



This paper focuses on the production economics issues
surrounding the vertical separation of infrastructure
from rail services with regard to passenger operations. A
case study of the British passenger railway privatisation
is used. The British approach to rail reform is unique in three aspects. Firstly, the extent of horizontal
separation of the former state owned railway, with the former monolithic state enterprise being divided into 104 individual autonomous units. Secondly, with only five years between the government white paper and full implementation of the revised structure, the time-frame over which these structural changes were implemented was very short. Thirdly, the extent of the involvement of the private enterprise in these reforms, with 96 of the autonomous units highlighted above transferred to the
private sector.

The most significant finding is that the size of train operating companies matter. In any vertical separation of the railway therefore, consideration needs to be given to the size (and hence number) of the train service provider(s). Furthermore, it was suggested that all British TOCs were operating on the downward part of the average cost curve i.e. all were too small in terms of train
kilometre production. Therefore, one of the key areas for
productivity gains for TOCs would be in the area of scale
economies. Finally, based upon estimates of the price elasticity of infrastructure, it would appear that in the British example the regulator has been reasonably successful in controlling the market power of the monopoly operator, Railtrack.


Cowie, J. (2002). Production economics of a vertically separated railway – The case of the British train operating companies. Trasporti europei, 5, 45-52

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Aug 1, 2002
Deposit Date Mar 23, 2015
Publicly Available Date Mar 23, 2015
Print ISSN 1825-3997
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Pages 45-52
Keywords Railways; Separated management; Infrastructure; Train operating companies (TOCs); Franchise size; Economics; Economics of scale;
Public URL
Publisher URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations

Whoops, looks like something went wrong.