The role of ticket retailing in railway regulation

European railway regulation proceeds on the assumption that increased competition among railway operating companies will yield lower prices and better services for passengers. At the same time legislators are aware that insufficient provision of information on the supply of services and time consuming procedures for through ticket reservations may erect a substantial obstacle and reduce the demand for services. This paper compares how the regulatory regimes in Sweden, Great Britain and Germany handle the provision of through ticketing and how the different approaches have been justified. The analysis proceeds from official policy documents and examines law texts and the policies of organisations in charge of providing tickets to passengers. The main findings are that not only do the regulations of ticket provision have different forms in these three countries; they also differ on how important a common neutral system for ticketing is professed to be for a well-functioning market. Therefore the emphasis on a common and neutral system for ticket provision is also very different in the three countries. Great Britain has a compulsory system for neutral provision of tickets, Germany has a system provided by the incumbent and Sweden has a formally neutral system which is owned and organised primarily by the incumbent with voluntary association for entrants. The degree to which common ticketing has been justified also varies. So far we have found no more elaborate analyses on the welfare consequences of operating common ticketing systems or the lack of such systems.

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