Regional Railway Governance – Akteursnetzwerke im regionalen Bahnsystem im internationalen Vergleich

  • Regional Railway Governance – International comparison of stakeholder networks in regional railway systems

Elsmann, Dominik; Fromhold-Eisebith, Martina (Thesis advisor); Pfaffenbach, Carmella Diana (Thesis advisor)

Aachen (2017)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Dissertation, RWTH Aachen University, 2017


Objective and subject of investigation: Europe's railway systems have undergone a profound transformation process over the last 20 years. As part of the process of reforming the European rail sector, privatisation, liberalisation and regionalisation processes were initiated and implemented with varying national radicalism. In Germany and Great Britain, the reformation of railway systems began at the same time in the early 1990s. However, the following development has followed different development paths in both countries. The differing implementation models of the reform have therefore strongly influenced the structure and functioning of the railway systems concerned. As a result of the regionalisation process, stakeholder networks in regional railway systems have either been restructured or even been organized and established for the first time. Those stakeholder networks are the focus of interest in this paper.Against this background, this paper researches governance in the regional rail system. As a specific form of governance, the network-based collaboration between the stakeholders is examined. Building on the approaches of network research and the governance concept, this paper analyses the composition and functioning of stakeholder networks in the regional railway system. Differing network structures is a result of different development paths pursued in the respective national context. A particular focus is laid on the participatory approach towards an involvement of civil stakeholders and the importance of participatory approaches for the stakeholder network in the regional railway system. Research methods: The comparison of two case studies forms the research approach for this paper. Due to the simultaneous reform of the rail sector, but completely different implementation models and resulting different structures, case studies from Germany and Great Britain are suitable for comparing present stakeholder networks and their functioning. The German region of Aachen as well as the British region of Lancashire were selected for this comparative study of governance in the regional rail system. Considering the different paths of development pursued following the reform of the respective national rail systems, this paper compares the present structures and way of functioning of stakeholder networks in the regional rail systems. The aim is to identify differing overall conditions and influencing factors and to present the resulting organisational structures and decision-making processes. In addition, the comparative study makes it possible to identify similarities and differences that characterise the regional railway system. It also examines the extent to which the identified structures allow or aggravate more intensive participation by civil stakeholders. The study of stakeholder networks builds on the relational perspective of network research, which examines existing relationships between stakeholders and illuminates their accomplishment. The governance concept provides the theoretical framework by considering forms and mechanisms of coordination between more or less autonomous stakeholders whose actions are interdependent. Building on approaches from social network research and the governance concept, different research methods are applied. More precisely document analysis, participatory observations as well as qualitative expert interviews were conducted. Findings: The findings demonstrate that stakeholder networks exist in the regional rail systems of the two case studies, but these are no official or formalised associations of different stakeholders. In fact, stakeholders with competences or interest in the regional railway system work together in a network because of their interdependency. According to the results of the expert interviews, these network structures can be described as not formalized, but institutionalized. Public transport by rail is no longer organised by public stakeholders exclusively. As a result of privatisation, liberalisation and regionalisation, the present stakeholder network is composed heterogeneously and comprises public, private and civil stakeholders. On the one hand, stakeholders with different motivations collaborate cooperatively, on the other hand the organisation of the functional railway system has gained complexity. Decision-making processes are negotiated in the network between all stakeholders concerned. However, the research results in this thesis show that some stakeholders are able to influence the process much more than others. The commissioning authorities in the German case study and the Department for Transport (DfT) in the British context hold a powerful position for instance. One of the reasons for this can be found in the financing of local transport services, which is secured by the above-mentioned stakeholders. With regard to the participatory involvement of civil stakeholders, the comparison between the German and British case studies reveals clear differences. In Germany, civil stakeholders appear primarily as institutionalised associations or interest groups. Accordingly, the stakeholder network is primarily designed for the integration of such professionalised civil stakeholders, although interviewed experts state that this could undoubtedly still be improved. With regard to participatory structures the British case study, on the other hand, presents "Community Rail Partnerships" as a successful model, which function as an integrator and hereby enable a permanent involvement of different players. As a result, the regional railway system benefits from a supporting participatory culture, which is reflected in constructive collaboration between public, private and civil stakeholders. The advantages and potentials resulting from this participatory governance are discussed in detail as well as possibilities for the transfer of best practice approaches to other regions.