European Urban Public Transport: Towards a single European employment model?







Full text


European employment model?




(Vol 4 No 1)

17 September, 2009 Final revision 26 March 2010

James Wickham

Employment Research Centre, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Erich Latniak


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Public transport in European cities has traditionally been provided by publicly owned enterprises. Public transport was an example of ‘good bad jobs’: unskilled, but with job security and high informal autonomy, and above all, unionised. Recent changes in the governance of urban public transport have ensured that public transport enterprises are being p rivatised a nd/or exposed to competition. T his p aper u ses a co mparative study o f u rban p ublic t ransport i n six European co untries ( Austria, G ermany, Hungary, Ireland and Italy) from the DYNAMO project1 to address two inter-related questions. F irstly, ar e t hese c hanges r esulting in a single E uropean e mployment model in t he s ector, or d o n ational e mployment models c ontinue? S econdly, a re changes in e mployment r elated t o ch anges in service q uality: is t here a t rade-off between service quality and employment quality?2

1. A New European Public Transport Model?

Public transport and the European Social Model

European c ities ar e a d istinctive feature o f E uropean societies (Häusermann, 2005). Compared especially to American cities, European cities are more compact; European city centres are centres of administration, business, entertainment and shopping, rather than s imply ‘Central B usiness D istricts’. This has been po ssible because car-based mobility has been restrained: especially in large cities Europeans are more likely to travel to work by public transport; Europeans are more likely to make short journeys on f oot or by bicycle (Newman a nd Kenworthy, 1999 ; van de C oevering a nd Schwanen, 2006). One reason was that in many cities in the second half of t he 20th century public transport was maintained and even expanded.

1 EU-FP6 project ‘DYNAMO – Dynamics of National Employment Models’ Contract no. CIT2-CT-2004- 508521 (Co-ordinator Professor Gerhard Bosch).


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Above all perhaps, European cities have public spaces. Public transport therefore contributes t o the p hysical e xpansion o f t he p ublic s phere w hich ha s a lso be en claimed a s an important feature o f E uropean s ociety ( Hutton, 2 002). Furthermore, public transport is itself a public space, for the bus or train passengers must share a physical space (the bus, the railway carriage) to which other passengers have access. Using public transport is a co llective social practice requiring different social norms of social interaction ( consideration for fellow p assengers) r ather d ifferent t o that of the ‘carcooned’ user of the private car. In this sense too, public transport contributes to urban citizenship (Wickham, 2006a).

If public transport contributed to the physical structure of European cities, it also contributed to their economic and social structure. Since the early 20th century public transport i n E uropean c ities w as pr ovided by publicly o wned e nterprises. P ublic transport i n t he c ity w as u nderstood as a p ublic s ervice t hat s hould n ot b e l eft t o private enterprise. Although t he rationale for t his varied across t ime and p lace, t he decision itself was part of a political consensus shared by socialists and conservatives (Häussermann & Haila, 2005).

Least n oticed, but c rucial for t his pa per, e mployment in ur ban pu blic t ransport contributed to the distinctive social structure of European cities. The importance o f routine long-term jobs in t he pu blic sector contributed t o European ci ties’ s ocial stability. B ecause such jobs were secure and had real if limited long-term b enefits, there w ere f ewer incentives for g eographical mobility: such jobs s trengthened citizens’ Platzgebundenheit - their physical and em otional a ttachment t o their ci ty (Kazepov, 2005). T he public sector provided a significant section of the population with low formal qualifications with regular employment with good conditions:


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In t he g eneral e xpansion o f p ublic s ector e mployment in E urope i n t he 1 970s public t ransport w as un usual in t hat e mployment w as o verwhelmingly for men in manual jobs. B y contrast, m ost of t he a ctual e mployment e xpansion w as in lower white collar ( administration) a nd lower p rofessional e mployment s uch a s social workers an d teachers, a ll d isproportionately female. Like t he r est of p ublic s ector employees, pu blic t ransport workers w ere a lso u nionised. Although t hey made no contribution to public transport policy, trade unions became the beneficiaries of public sector expansion, and as we shall see below, its potential guardians.

The New European Public Transport Model (NEPTM)

European publ ic t ransport n ow operates within the framework of E U c ompetition policy. In this domain there are now frequent references to European public services, but in p ractice t he o nly issue is t he e xtent t o which t he public provision o f such services hinders competition. Tellingly, while ‘opening up’ the urban public transport ‘market’ t o c ompetition is d efined a s a European issue, t he s tandard an d level o f service is le ft entirely t o national governments. In other words, t he European Union insists t hat publ ic t ransport s hould be pr ovided ‘ competitively’, but a ctually do es nothing to ensure that it is provided at all.

Within t he new framework, a transport s ervice c an still be organised by pu blic authorities, b ut i t must b e p rovided by a s eparate en terprise o n t he b asis o f a competitive t ender. Formally t here is no o bjection to this e nterprise being pu blicly owned, but it must be financially independent and not receive a ny ge neral s ubsidy, since this falls within the ambit o f anti-competitive state aid and is therefore illegal. In p ractice o f co urse this means t hat s ince t he ‘ public’ e nterprise w ill t herefore operate ex actly as a p rivate co mpany, t here is n o reason for it r emaining in pu blic ownership. Furthermore, w here t he p ublic t ransport s ystem has its o wn s pecific infrastructure, as the cas e o f national r ailways, t hen t he o wnership o f t he infrastructure m ust b e s eparated from whatever co mpany o r co mpanies act ually operate the trains.


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Firms compete directly with each other for the individual consumer, even though the authority may allow public subsidy for individual routes. The clearest example of this model is ur ban publ ic t ransport i n t he U K o utside o f L ondon. O n t he ot her hand, there can be co mpetition for the market. H ere t he au thority d ecides o n t he o verall level o f s ervice p rovision, it may itself ma ke strategic i nvestment d ecisions, an d crucially, it awards a co ntract for particular services such as the whole network or a bundle of routes. While companies compete for contracts, once a contract is awarded, then the company has a monopoly for the duration. For example, in French cities the municipal authorities have for s ome t ime s ought tenders t o operate the local b us system for a specific time period (Lorrain, 2005).

Of t he six case study co untries, Sweden was a precursor of privatisation. Since 1989 urban public transport has been the responsibility of the Traffic Authority which invites tenders for transport within local areas. In most municipalities the operators are now pr ivately owned, t hough some publicly owned t ransport companies do still exist. T hus in S tockholm t he S tockholm T raffic Authority is r esponsible for public transport i n t he c ity, but act ual o peration, including o f t he metro, i s by pr ivate contractors. Unlike most o f o ur other case study co untries, privatisation in Sweden was driven purely by national policy since it predated any effective implementation of EU legislation. Furthermore, in the Swedish case the policy was explicitly justified in terms o f improving t he q uality o f s ervice, r ather than as a co st cu tting measure. Sweden is a clear case of competition for the market.

Elsewhere in E urope ch ange has followed t he d evelopment o f E U co mpetition policy. In some countries the formal legal system has been implemented, but in such a way t hat in practice everything remains as before. In other words, although t here are public transport contracts between local authorities and transport providers, these providers are the old and unchanged public sector enterprises. This is effectively the situation in I taly, w here at l east to d ate n o p rivate en terprise has co nsidered it worthwhile to challenge this situation through the courts.


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the existing state undertakings as separate legal entities, drawing up service contracts between authorities and providers, and last but not least, establishing clearly defined transport authorities able to issue such contracts and regulate the market in the future.

In t he I rish c ase g overnment p olicy ap pears t o b e t o i ncrease t he r ole o f t he private sector not by head on confrontation with the unions, but by ensuring that the existing s tate co mpanies only play a l imited role i n n ew services. For Ire land, as mentioned, there is only a noteworthy urban public transport system in Dublin. There has been limited entry of private operators, with one notably providing a direct shuttle service t o the a irport. T he ne w t ramlines have be en built by a new g overnment agency and ar e o perated b y V eolia. C onstruction is d ue t o start s hortly o n a long- planned new metro, the operation of which will also be put out to tender.

In Hungary there has been a derogation for the privatisation of the public transport sector until 2012 ( in contrast to the s imilarly organised “Verkehrskombinate” in t he former G erman D emocratic R epublic), a lthough g overnment p olicy is t hat these companies will be privatised in the coming years. By contrast the East German public transport systems had to undergo a double transformation. In the first stage, lasting until a bout 1993, the former “Transportkombinate” ( integrated transport s ervice administration for each r egion) w ere s plit u p a nd t ransferred into p ublicly o wned transport c ompanies. There w as a severe r eduction o f p ublic t ransport s ervices offered and a s ignificant ‘modal shift’ towards the private car. In t he second stage, lasting u ntil t oday, t hese ‘new’ co mpanies are now facing t he same p ressures for competition as their counterparts in West Germany.


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Country Model Ownership Regulatory authority

Austria Delayed privatisation Largely state owned Licensing by provincial authorities

Germany Creeping privatisation Some private operators, mostly state or municipally owned enterprises

Associations of local authorities act as

licensing authorities and public transport

coordinators Hungary Derogated

privatisation All state owned Markets protected until 2012 Ireland Derogated

privatisation Nearly all state owned; limited new private operators

None functioning but foreseen in current legislation

Italy Formal privatisation Largely state or

municipally owned Local authorities plan and licence, but little effective competition, Sweden Full privatisation

before EU regulations were applied

Largely private, some municipally owned enterprises

Competitive tendering for all markets – coordinating authority


Employment and industrial relations in the NEPTM


At the start of the 20th century employment in transport meant working in large and usually state-owned railway companies. In the nineteenth century railway companies had been some of the very first large scale capitalist employers; during the first half of the twentieth century the state-owned railways remained significant employers within the national economies. An extreme case was Ireland where CIÉ (the state transport company) at its creation in 1944 was the largest company in the state. At local level too, public transport undertakings were significant employers within their cities. In a few countries this remains the case. For example the Budapest Transport Company (Budapesti Közlekedési Vállalat, BKV) currently employs over 13,000 employees and is one of largest companies in Hungary.


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clear t hat o verall p ublic t ransport i s not a s ignificant s ource o f e mployment in absolute t erms and that furthermore, this has been t he case for some t ime. Thus i n Austria local and regional public transport (i.e. excluding federal railways) is less than 1% of total employment; in Vienna Wiener Linien (the municipally owned transport company), still provides virtually all transport in the city, but has a total employment of around 8,000 employees in a city with a total population of 1.67m. In Sweden total employment in public t ransport (excluding long distance t ransport) is 31,500 (2006) from a t otal e mployment o f a pprox. 4 .9 mil lion; t he S tockholm metro e mployees approximately 8,000. In I reland w here total e mployment reached over 2 million in 2008, Dublin Bus, still providing virtually all bus transport in the city, employs just over 3,000 workers and the national railway company employs in total only 5,500.

The long t erm de cline in e mployment w ithin u rban publ ic t ransport h as b een mainly because o f increased pr oductivity ( as o pposed t o i n t he national r ailways where route closures have also been important) and it started long before the current wave o f pr ivatisation and de -regulation. From t he l ate 1960s onwards b uses a nd trams became ‘one-man operated’ (and the drivers were usually men); the bus or tram conductor had become a h istorical o ccupation. Since t he 1970s we can o bserve a n increasing emphasis on technical investment and a productivity increase (measured in transport kilometres per person employed) in some urban areas as a k ind o f secular trend – especially in G ermany t he w hole pu blic t ransport s ector i s r eputed t o be ‘technology-mad’. For example, in many German cities during the 1990s there was a rapid i ntroduction of l ow-floor busses w ith ‘kneeling’ technology (adjustable e ntry floors to facilitate handicapped people o r passengers with ba by bu ggies). Based on new t echnologies ( e.g. integrated ticket s ystems, au tomated t ransport m anagement systems) a higher t ransport capacity and improved quality became manageable w ith fewer people employed.


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By contrast in Hungary privatisation has been delayed and employment has not fallen as fast.

Comparing the changes in employment in the six countries since the mid-1990s in terms o f ag gregate s tatistics s hows employment losses in I taly an d G ermany. B y contrast in Austria there has been a large fluctuation; in Sweden total employment has also fluctuated, but with a slight increase by the end of the period. Finally in Ireland there h as been a s light o verall increase ( comparative d ata from H ungary w ere unavailable).

It i s however c lear t hat t he movement t owards the NEPTM ha s c ontributed t o reducing employment that is counted as public transport employment. While control and security tasks became increasingly important in suburban areas during the 1990s (cf. for P aris H atchuel, 2002: 4 4ff.), t hese jobs were o ften o utsourced and ar e now provided b y s ecurity s ervice co mpanies. Even companies s till i n pu blic ownership have adopted similar strategies for other “non core” tasks such as cleaning, technical services ( bus maintenance) et c. We k now less ab out other ar eas o f management services ( e.g. h uman r esource management, i nformation s ervices, t icketing, r oute planning), but the disintegration of the formerly integrated public transport companies towards a “lean public transport company” has accelerated. In countries where state owned en terprises are beginning t o c ompete with p rivate en terprises, rising employment in the latter does not completely compensate for job losses in the state-owned sector. This is shown by the case o f Germany. In 1994 196, 587 employees worked i n t he pu blic t ransport s ector, but employment w as r educed t o 179, 678 i n 2004. It is not clear however whether this fall marks a fall in overall jobs, since it may well be t he ca se t hat o utsourcing has a lso r esulted in a r eclassification o f employment sector (e.g. from ‘transport’ to ‘cleaning services’). In t his context the Swedish case is interesting, since the process of privatisation began earliest and now appears to be one of the most complete in Europe. Between 1984 a nd 2004 o verall employment has fluctuated within a range between 25,000 (1984) to 32,000 (in 1991 and 2004).


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countries for some time. However, this has often been within state-owned enterprises and is usually t he result of long t erm t echnological and organisational change. T his decline therefore predates the changed regulatory context. However, the NEPTM has led to new business models and changed firm structures, and these in turn have meant that jobs within the core transport companies have been reduced.

Industrial relations and wages

The co untry studies r eveal a v ariety o f co nsequences initiated b y c hanges in t he industrial r elations s ystem. G iven t he d iversity o f industrial r elations s ituations, it i s hardly s urprising that w e f ind a s imilar d iversity in w age levels and n egotiation patterns.

In Dublin in I reland most public t ransport workers however remain in t he state-owned companies (Dublin Bus, Irish Rail). Here union membership is virtually 100% and t he u nions have successfully o pposed al l s teps t owards p rivatisation a nd deregulation of existing public urban transport. For most workers in the sector there has t herefore been no change in t he bargaining system; wages have remained stable with regular increases determined through the corporatist-style ‘national agreements’.

In Hungary the company based bargaining system ensures that working conditions and w ages w idely d iffer between t ransport companies. In 2003, a s trike a nd a n agreement for all state-owned companies has partly standardised conditions, but t he wage level for drivers and technicians is below the Hungarian average wage. There is no nation w ide o r centralised bargaining structure for the entire s ector w hich co uld prevent w age losses o r c ontractual d isruption when p rivatisation a nd budgetary restrictions begin to operate in near future.

In I taly, a n ational co llective ag reement for the s ector p rovides a ba se line fo r wages. This however is fragmented by additional bargaining at company level. Here improved conditions have been negotiated so that the urban public transport sector has a comparatively high wage level. The so-called ‘social clause’ guarantees the existing public s ector em ployees’ income level even if t he s ervices become provided b y private operators.


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monopolies still e xist a nd t he implementation o f t he r egulation is limited a nd contradictory. Nation w ide co llective agreements d o n ot ex ist in t he s ector, w age negotiation i s fragmented. There is a strong pr essure o n t he wages in t he pu blicly owned co mpanies because w ages ar e t he main c ost as pect t o b e influenced by t he companies and subsidies are increasingly reduced. As long as the unions are not able to e stablish w age a nd w orking t ime s tandards e ven within o ne c ompany all o ver Austria ( which is t he ca se now) increasing co mpetition w ill impact o n w ages a nd working conditions.

In Germany, the federal structure has ensured that bus routes have been put out to tender in d ifferent w ays. As i n Austria, t here is a h igh d egree o f co ordination a nd integration of the services into regional traffic networks provided by public as well as private companies, the latter dominating in rural areas. Despite the same negotiating union in bo th areas, there were different wages negotiated for public service and for private bus companies. Traditionally, wages were higher in the public service due to the h igher d egree o f u nionisation and t he p ressure mobilised dur ing the i ntegrated negotiation i n entire public s ervices (including for e xample w aste d isposal a nd infrastructural services). Accordingly, t he price based co mpetition induces pressure on t he w ages primarily in t he pu blic companies. Along w ith t he c hange o f t he collective agreement structure in the German public s ervice i n recent y ears, wages were reduced by the sectoral agreement for public urban transport. This is a kind of concession by the union to provide some ‘competitive help’ for the public companies in order to guarantee job tenure and employment security.

Finally in Sweden wages are excluded from being a core element of (price based) competition and the county report reveals a varying but continuous increase of wages over time.


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is as yet n ot v ery w idespread. However, t his is p artly t he r esult o f a w ider fragmentation process within t he p ublic service as a w hole, a nd is not s imply t he result of re-regulation.

Furthermore, the o utsourcing o f functions ha s involved a r elative r eduction o f wages o f t hose employees now performing t asks such as cleaning or security, since private co mpanies from o utside t he p ublic t ransport s ector often t end t o p ay lower wages. In s hifting t o s ectors w ith lower w age t ariffs o r w ith d ifferent co llective agreements o r e ven u nregulated branches, o utsourcing is c ontributing t o a n o verall cost reduction initiated b y the budgetary constraints in many countries; o ver t ime it reduces the number of employees with good fringe benefits such as pensions and sick pay.

By co ntrast, wages appear to have b een i ncreasing i n Sweden a nd i n Ireland i n both ab solute a nd r elative t erms. In S weden u nions have maintained s ector w ide bargaining and agreements. Even new enterprises are usually unionised, but there are cases ( e.g. D ublin Connex-Veolia) w here t he employers have at tempted t o av oid recruiting new employees with strong trade union backgrounds. In general however it seems that private operators have no particular desire to avoid unions altogether, but are determined to avoid the union constraints on management decision-making that so often characterised traditional public sector enterprises in the sector.

3. Employment quality and service quality

Job Quality and Service Quality: Interdependence or trade-off?


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service qua lity. They deny t hat in t he pa st job security a nd u nion po wer hi ndered improvements in service, and usually instead hold governments responsible for a lack of investment. C onversely, u nions claim t hat the contemporary development of the NEPTM actually p roduces lower q uality p ublic t ransport, in p art b ecause it undermines the quality of work.

Table 2 Possible relations between job quality and service quality

Service Quality

Bad Good

Job Quality Bad Bad All Round


undermines job quality and service quality. Privatisation as seen by trade unions.

New Trade-Off

Employees are exposed to market conditions which may undermine the quality of their jobs, but service quality improves. Implicit NEPTM argument. Good Traditional Trade-Off

Employees have ‘good bad jobs’, above all security of

employment, but at the cost of bad service. Implicit NEPTM argument.

Win / Win

Public transport is good, partly because of employees’

commitment and skills, in turn the result of good employment conditions.

Trade union claim about the past and/or aspiration for the future.


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The other d iagonal in T able 2 posits a t rade-off between job quality and service quality. In the ‘Traditional Trade-Off’ employees may have good bad jobs, but this is at the co st of bad s ervice q uality. T his is how the ad vocates o f t he N EPTM understand the traditional situation in European cities, implicitly or explicitly arguing that trade u nion p ower, i n t urn ba sed o n p ublic s ector m onopoly, creates b oth excessive wages a nd inefficient w orking p ractices. F or ad vocates o f t he N EPTM, exposing employees to market conditions may undermine the quality of their jobs and will certainly r educe t he level o f t heir w ages. However, t his is supposed t o enable improvement in service quality.

Job Quality

A meso-level study like this can tell us relatively little about the more individual aspects of job quality (individual autonomy, stress, work-life balance, etc.). However, our national level reports do give some indications about the more structural issues. In particular t hey stress t hat i n most cas es p rivatisation a nd ‘pseudo-privatisation’ i s leading t o de clining job s ecurity a nd, largely because o f o utsourcing, t o l ower promotion prospects for front-line staff.

The new more co mpetitive e nvironment co mpels e xisting p ublic c ompanies to consider their strengths relative to other possible providers. In Germany for example such pu blic c ompanies hope t hat i f t ransport a uthorities insist o n relatively h igh quality standards, then they will gain a competitive advantage since they will be able to u tilise their s trengths (skills, e xperience, a dvanced t echnology) t o g uarantee standards.


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therefore an other ar gument f or u pgrading t he skills basis in o rder to r each a n upgraded level of service.

There is a n increasing d ebate o ver w hat such a n e nhanced t ransport o ccupation would require (cf. for Germany VDV, 2004). However, to date there have been only a handful of initiatives towards the standardisation of integrated job profiles – e.g. the European p roject for the “ urban t ransport d river” ( see for ex ample Although T ransport for London does require t heir contractors to train bus dr ivers in cu stomer r elationship t echniques3

In s ome c ases t here is e vidence t hat p ublic transport w orkers t raditionally understood their work as in part a ‘public service’ a nd t his contributed t o their job satisfaction. For example, in a recent study of four Dublin workplaces, employees at Dublin Bus were particularly likely t o be ‘proud t o work for this organisation’ a nd usually explained this, as one put it, in terms of providing ‘a public service, you know, not j ust publ ic t ransport’ ( Wickham, 2006 b: 17 1) S tudies o f low skilled c are a nd health workers threatened by New Public Management, privatization and outsourcing have routinely reported similar findings, where for example hospital cleaners chat to patients and effectively undertake unpaid low grade nursing tasks. While job security and concomitant local knowledge may be the precondition for such ‘caring’ work, it would be d ifficult t o a rgue that they g uarantee it occurs. Indeed, w ithin t he DYNAMO ca se s tudies, cu stomer d issatisfaction ap pears h ighest in I taly a nd t he state-owned co mpanies in I reland ( Dublin Bus, I rish R ail), a ll s ituations w here traditional job security is strongest.

, i n the D YNAMO co untries themselves we f ound no n ew c areer s tructures an d no w idespread d evelopment o f ‘customer-focused’ s kills, let a lone a ny c ertification o f s uch skills. Instead, w e encountered initiatives to lower the threshold age for becoming a bus driver in order to attract more young people. The efforts t o s trengthen a nd t o u pdate the p rofiles contrast sharply with the efforts of some co mpanies to attract students (on part-time contract basis) into drivers’ jobs.

Traditionally, t he c areer p aths for bus d rivers were fairly s hort: be yond s ome customer information jobs ( preferably us ed for d isabled dr ivers), t here are o nly a


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handful of planning and control tasks available in the companies as career steps. With the changing organisational structures of the companies, there are some new careers in planning and consultancy, but these jobs are restricted to highly qualified candidates, are few in number, and do not offer new careers for ordinary employees. Indeed, in some cases outsourcing of maintenance work further reduces the scope for alternative jobs in the same companies.

Beyond t hat, w ork i ntensification a nd t he e xtension o f w orking t imes is widespread in o ur cas e s tudy co untries ( with t he p ossible exception o f I taly and Sweden) a nd has g one t ogether w ith rising pr oductivity, i.e. r ising numbers o f passengers an d t ransport k ilometres. This de cline in w orking c onditions d oes no w seem t o b e r eaching a p lateau because o f t he limits o f p hysical p ossibility and restrictions imposed by health and safety regulations. But this seems to be a general process and not simply the result of deregulation or new private operators.

Service quality

One attempt to define the quality of public transport is a new specification of the ISO 9001-2000 standard, the EN 13816 o n quality of public t ransport and EN 15140 o n the measurement of service quality in public service. Interestingly the impetus for the former apparently came from the European Parliament; it is part of the recent concern of the Parliament to protect European public services within the general discussion of the liberalisation o f s ervices. E N 13816 e ssentially focuses on qua lity o f e xisting services, with ‘quality criteria’ including:

• availability, accessibility,

• information, time, customer care, • comfort, security,

• environmental impact

(Meier, 2009)


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the overall level of transport provision which we earlier argued has been the defining characteristic of public transport in European cities.

It is possible that both these standards will become more important in the future if transport administrations integrate them into their tender conditions, thus emphasising a certain measurable m inimum o f service quality at a cer tain price. Meanwhile the ISO/EN cer tification ap pears t o b e largely p art of the p ublic r elations measures o f some transport companies. According to experts, these standards are not yet part of the tendering process. Nonetheless, the EN norm has been transferred to the national standard systems in German, Austria, and Sweden; in Italy, courses for training and implementing t he standards are available. If t hese norms do become used t o define service standards, then companies will have to follow them, in particular by acquiring certification. Audits in t urn w ill involve further de mands for t he s pecification o f operating procedures and for appropriate training of employees.

More generally it is clear that some new private operators have taken some steps towards the r egular monitoring o f service qua lity a long t hese lines. This ha s be en partly driven by t he demands o f t he t ransport authorities in several c ities no t within the DYNAMO Project, such as HKL in Helsinki and TfL in London, where transport contracts include monitoring of the quality of service provided. In Stockholm Veolia’s reorganisation of the metro since 1999 has involved such monitoring of service levels and c ustomer s atisfaction s urveys; in D ublin V eolia p ublishes r egular upda tes o n planned journeys co mpleted o n n ew t rams t hat i t o perates, w hile no s uch d ata is available from t he public sector Dublin Bus. However, such initiatives can also be found in large pu blic s ector un dertakings, pa rticularly in G ermany and Austria. Conversely, we have no reports of any such monitoring in Italy or Hungary.


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committed employees and turnover reaches unsustainable heights. However, beyond this basic level, we can identify no evidence of any clear trade-off between quality of work and quality of service.

Service provision

Any urban public transport system requires subsidy; so the simplest way to reduce the subsidy is t o a bolish p ublic t ransport within c ities (as many American ci ties have effectively d one). There is no es cape from t he fact t hat ex panding urban public transport will require greater public expenditure. Accordingly a measure o f success which focuses on the overall level of subsidy is perverse, and even some measure of receipts a s a p ercentage o f o perating co sts may o nly measure t he extent t o w hich transport provision concentrates on a small number of profitable routes. To date such comparisons ar e notoriously d ifficult ( clearly t he new E uropean framework w ill facilitate them), but do indicate that low fares are not necessarily linked to high levels of r idership o r decent qua lity. If t he o stensible aim o f u rban t ransport po licy is t o increase public t ransport usage relative t o private t ransport, it is revealing t hat such international comparisons ar e still made r ather infrequently. Nonetheless, T able 3 presents s ome co mparative d ata f or the D YNAMO cap ital c ities. In t erms o f t he modal split for t he journey t o w ork, i t s uggests that D ublin is by far t he least successful, a lthough it h as t he highest co ntribution o f fares t o operating co sts. Conversely, the most successful urban transport systems include both the ‘reformed’ Stockholm system and t he ‘unreformed’ Viennese and Berlin systems. (see Table 3) This r esult w ould pr obably r emain if t he c omparison included more c omplex indicators such as the extent of innovation in the system (e.g. new routes, new forms of service) or even the network density (measured for example in terms of the number of transport departures per square kilometre of the city area)4


draft of 14/01/2010 revision 26/03/2010 Page 19 Table 3 Public transport share of journey to work, DYNAMO capital cities

City (1) Modal split: public transport

(%) all journeys5

(2) Subsidy as % operating


Berlin 39 >50%

Budapest 70 >50%

Dublin 22 <20%

Rome 24 >50%

Stockholm 47 >50%

Vienna 45 >50%

Source: (1) Urban Audit


We have ar gued t hat w e ar e s eeing t he e mergence o f a N ew E uropean P ublic Transport Model. This is a re-regulation (not de-regulation) of urban public transport which ensures t hat urban public t ransport is provided by pr ivate or ‘pseudo-private’ companies. Nonetheless, the regulatory framework - at least potentially – does accept the social role o f urban public t ransport and t he importance o f t he maintenance and further development of the urban public transport systems which we have argued are crucial to European cities. Whether this potential will be realised is unclear, but the NEPTM does clearly involve a restructuring of employment relationships within the new public transport undertakings.

Competition in the market clearly runs the risk of a race to the bottom in terms of wages and working conditions. This could only be prevented by strong sector wide bargaining which everywhere in Europe is becoming increasingly unlikely. However, the converse does not apply. It is clear that competition for the market is compatible with the variety of wage bargaining systems we have documented and with increased pressure on wages and (especially) working conditions. Furthermore, competition for the market and its stress on service quality necessitates tighter managerial control over front line employees. At most there may be an increasing polarisation between ‘high road’ and ‘low road’ services induced by a (possible) split between quality services in the cities and low co st services in rural areas. In urban areas t here w ill be political pressure to continue and even expand the public financing of public transport systems


draft of 14/01/2010 revision 26/03/2010 Page 20

for social, environmental and economic reasons. By contrast, public transport in rural areas and small towns is more likely to fall behind – there are fewer customers, less money available, a d ecreasing o ffer o f services and acco rdingly lower quality – and lower pa id jobs. At least at the moment, there is little e vidence that urban public transport in the new member states will do anything other than decline.

The prognosis for Europe as a whole is therefore a continued long term decline of employment a nd w orking c onditions. In s ome major c ities o f t he E U15 h owever expansion of public transport is possible and in some cases even likely. This is only possible on the basis of competition ‘for the market’ and the form of this competition will d epend o n national a nd increasingly sub-national ( city) p olitical d ecisions. To the extent that competition is indeed competition for the market (and not competition in t he market), i t w ill in t urn n ecessitate s ome minimum standards in w ages a nd conditions. Beyond s uch a b ase line, t he e xtent of job security a nd o f a ny improvement in working conditions will depend on national bargaining systems, and not on any features inherent in the sector itself.


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Table 1: Regulation of urban public transport: six EU countries

Table 1.

Regulation of urban public transport six EU countries . View in document p.7
Table 2  Possible relations between job quality and service quality

Table 2.

Possible relations between job quality and service quality . View in document p.13
Table 3  Public transport share of journey to work, DYNAMO capital cities

Table 3.

Public transport share of journey to work DYNAMO capital cities . View in document p.19