In Europe in the last 10–30 years, many public transportation companies have been split up in parts, with some parts corporatised and some parts privatised. This has partly been motivated by an expected increased in quality, whereas opponents have argued that it would actually reduce quality, but the debate has also been ideologically loaded. Different countries have implemented different things ways, but almost everywhere the trend has been to introduce some form of corporatisation in at least some components of formerly government-run public transportation, most notably state railways.
Is there any evidence that splitting up, corporatisation or privatisation of public transportation affects the quality for travellers in a positive or negative way? By splitting I mean distributing the tasks of a formerly unitary organisation over several organisations; for example, one organisation for the tracks, one for the stations, one for the vehicles, one for the operations, etc. By corporatisation I mean the transformation of a government-run public transportation organisation (for example, a ministry of railways) to a for-profit but government-owned corporation. By privatisation I mean the partial or complete transfer of ownership from the government to private actors.
By quality, I mean:
- Reliability with regard to delays and cancellations, specifically the rate of delay, rate of cancellations,
- Frequency of service: number of trains, buses, etc. per day
- Speed/duration: some appropriate statistic of the time it takes to go from A to B
- Price for the traveller, for individual journeys or for subscriptions
- Service to the traveller: easiness and speed in getting delay compensations, help with lost&found, answers to queries from travellers, easiness of making reservations, etc.
One relevant aspect that I will not consider for now relates to the working conditions for the employees of the company. I might take that in another question; I think it's a different thing.
Of course, this is not an easy question, because there is no trial we can re-run to see what would have happened if a different policy had been applied. Correlation does not imply causation, and a reduction in quality since the start of corporatisation may very well be due to simultaneous cuts on maintenance. However, this problem in analysis applies to any policy, so all we can do is investigate examples of corporatisation (Sweden, Netherlands), privatisation (United Kingdom), or a maintaining of the status-quo (France).
Have there been any studies specifically into this question? What were the results of those studies?