THE REGIONAL and commuter rail market plays an important role as part of the overall passenger rail sector. It is a challenging public transport market, significantly contributing towards sustainable urban mobility, encouraging modal shift from private car and decongesting transport corridors providing access to major European cities.’ This is the principal finding from a survey of the Suburban and Regional Railways Landscape in Europe, launched by the European Rail Research Advisory Council in Brussels on January 9. Recognising that much of the EU rail strategy formulated over the past 15 years has been targeted at high speed passenger and cross-border freight trains, Errac felt that was important to try and assess the size and significance of the local passenger railway. This would allow the industry to gauge the increasing impact of EU legislation on this business sector. With financing from the European Commission’s FP6 programme, Errac commissioned UITP to undertake the review. According to project leader Laurent Dauby, suburban rail journeys in Europe are typically up to 15?km or 30?min. Regional trips can extend up to a maximum of 70?km with travel times of as much as 1?h. Metros and light rail were specifically excluded. The survey covered 220 separate passenger train operators in 29 countries, which were grouped into four categories: the EU15 member states, the eight new member states with railways, the EFTA countries of Norway and Switzerland, and EU accession and candidate countries, including Turkey but excluding Macedonia. Subsidiaries of the bigger railways, such as the 24 businesses belonging to DB Regio AG or the 20 TER and Ile-de-France units within SNCF have been counted as part of the one company, as with the 15 regional divisions and 11 Cercanias units at Renfe Operadora in Spain. In the UK, the various train operating franchisees are counted separately. In any survey of this type, collecting comparable data is not easy, and Dauby admits that there are some gaps in the findings. Data was obtained from 201 companies, or 91% of those approached. Some operators - particularly the private-sector franchisees in the UK - were reluctant to release ’commercially confidential’ figures, and others were not able to break down totals between long-distance and regional services. Nevertheless he feels that the overall response was sufficiently complete to permit a realistic analysis. In total, suburban and regional services transport 6?8 billion passengers a year, equivalent to 194 billion passenger-km and generating a turnover of k21?7bn. This is no less than 90% of all rail journeys and 50% of passenger-km handled by Europe’s railways each year. Excluding infrastructure staff, regional and suburban services account for a quarter of all railway employees - around 360 000 people. They require 64 000 items of rolling stock and operate on 188 000 km of track. The average journey length is 27?9?km, although the figures vary markedly by region from 17?3?km in the EFTA countries to 77 km in the candidate countries. The EU15 average of 25?2?km has been pulled down by the dominant weight of suburban trips in Germany and France, notably in the Ile de France which accounts for 1 000 million of the country’s 1 246 million trips a year (Table I). Operating contracts and PSR Given the growing impact of EU legislation on public procurement and railway restructuring, Errac was keen to assess the contractual structures applying to suburban and regional services. The survey distinguishes between PSR1 services which have public service requirements set by one authority PSR2 services which relate to two or more authorities, and FCB services which are operated on a fully commercial basis. Fig?1 shows the distribution of contract types in each region. Table II shows how the different contract types are split between public and private sector companies, where this information is available. The public service contracts define the service requirements and provide compensation or subsidy to offset any operating deficits. Contracts can be awarded directly through negotiation, through an open call for tenders or by some form of subcontracting. The increasing trend to calling tenders has allowed some companies such as Arriva, FirstGroup, Veolia, Transdev and Keolis to expand outside their home markets, whereas direct award tends to favour the incumbent state railway operators. Two types of remuneration scheme were identified: net cost, where both the operating costs and revenue risk are borne by the contractor, and gross cost, where the company carries the operating risk but the commercial risk is taken by the authority. At present there are 27 gross cost contracts in the EU15 and four in the new member states, compared to 81 net cost spread across all four regions. Fig 2 shows an interesting relationship between the awarding method and the type of contract. Who owns what? The study found that 91% of the infrastructure used by regional and suburban services, in terms of track-km, is owned by the various national infrastructure managers. Another 8% belongs to individual operators - mostly independent railways or national railways in three member states that have not implemented Directive 91/440 - and 1% to other owners such as local authorities. Applying the standards of Safety Directive 2004/49, no less than 81% of the operating companies run services on infrastructure that is either physically or functionally separated from the European rail network, but this only accounts for 16% of the actual track length. Looking at rolling stock, the study group experienced some difficulty reconciling operators’ classifications between trainsets and individual vehicles. Unpowered coaches continue to dominate the fleets in the new member states, EFTA states and candidate countries, but only 42% in the EU15, where EMU cars account for a similar proportion and DMUs around 15%. Double-deck stock now accounts for 15% of the suburban fleet in Western Europe. Private companies tend to operate a much higher proportion of multiple-units than public companies, with EMUs comprising 75% of their fleets and DMUs 18%. Looking at vehicle ownership, the study found that almost 90% of the total fleet is owned by the operators - 47% directly and 41% with the benefit of some form of subsidy. Another 7% of vehicles are owned by the contracting authorities, and just 5% is leased. Errac concludes that suburban and regional railways are a great asset to European society, and forecasts that their role and importance will only tend to increase as high car ownership causes more and more road congestion. UITP estimates that the use of suburban railways avoids 24 million km of traffic jams each year, and saves around 30 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. In addition, there is a significant saving in the number of injuries or fatalities in road accidents. Highlighting some of the potential problems which may result from applying EU regulations intended for ’main line’ operations, the study partners warned that the application to local services of international passenger rights as envisaged in the Third Railway Package would be ’wholly impractical’. nFig 1: Distribution of contract type per group of countries. It is interesting to note how few contracts have been awarded on a fully commercial basisFig 2: Split of contract types per award type. The choice of contract type is highly dependent on the recent experience of operators and regional authorities