Economist wins European transport award for rail freight study
A study of competition in the European rail freight market has secured a prestigious international transport industry award for a French university professor. This innovative piece of work by Dr Florent Laroche of Lyon University will see him receive the International Transport Forum’s Young Researcher of the Year award on 1 June.
Dr Laroche’s paper, Imperfect competition in a network industry: The case of the European rail freight market, develops an innovative approach to measuring competition by using little-used data and employing novel statistical tools. He conducted his research at the University of Antwerp, where he leads a team of the rail freight ‘brain-trains’ project, funded by the Belgian Federal Science Fund (BESPO).
Digital technology impact
Assistant Professor at the Transport, Urban Planning and Economics Laboratory, University Lumière Lyon 2, Dr Laroche’s research interests comprise the analysis of network performance, markets and strategic actors, new forms of mobility and the impact of digital technology on lifestyles.
He said: “It is a tremendous honour for me and my team at Antwerp University to receive this prestigious award. More work in this field needs to be done, and our main ambition was to demonstrate the need for an in-depth understanding of the rail freight sector and to improve the methods for its analysis. This is a necessary condition for better economic regulation and more efficient policies to achieve modal shift in freight. One way to achieve this could be the creation of a European rail freight observatory, possibly attached to the European Union Agency for Railways.”
His prize-winning paper reviews the impact of rail freight liberalisation in the EU in 2007. Ten years after this reform, new actors have appeared and governments are rethinking their approach to regulatory interventions. Against this background, the paper aims to answer two questions: First, how intense is competition in rail freight in the EU today? Second, what novel economic levers for regulating can governments bring to bear in an open market?
With research on rail freight in the EU scant and prior in-depth analyses limited by lack of data, the paper contributes to current knowledge by analysing the rail freight market at European level by including previously little-used data comprising historic actors as well as new entrants, and using statistical tools currently only employed in other industries.
The results show a strong intensity of competition in European rail freight since 2007. Numerous new operators have appeared, and excess profits linked to monopolistic structures have been much reduced. For the long term, however, the persistence of technical barriers to market entry could lead to the disappearance of a certain number of operators and create a risk of concentration. Yet the study finds few signs for an emerging monopoly or duopoly in Europe, as the economies of scale in the sector are moderate.
Dr Laroche will receive his award at the 2017 Summit of Transport Ministers on June 1 in Leipzig. His full paper can be read online until July 6.