Improving Reliability on Surface Transport Networks

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04 May 2010
9789282102428 (PDF) ;9789282102411(print)

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Passengers and freight shippers alike want reliable transport services.  Surprisingly, little research has been undertaken in incorporating reliability into the assessment of transport projects despite the increasing importance of scheduling in economic activities.

This report provides policy makers with a framework to understand reliability issues, to incorporate reliability into project assessment and to design reliability management policies. It also explores a range of reliability performance measures. Case studies across OECD and ITF countries provide examples of several core policy tools that can be used to deliver more reliable networks in a cost-effective manner.

The report makes significant progress in identifying appropriate methodology for incorporating reliability into policy and project evaluation, as well as exploring the pitfalls that need to be avoided.

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  • Foreword, Abstract
    This report Improving Reliability on Surface Transport Networks examines the extent to which appropriate levels of transport reliability are delivered, examining experience in each of the major ITF regions. With growing prosperity, consumers are increasingly mobile and demand higher quality transport services, for which reliable transport networks are central. Reliable trade connections within economies and between global partners are vital for the growing world economy. It is important to ensure there are efficient levels of reliability – neither too little nor too much.
  • Key Messages
    The objective of this report is to provide policy makers with a framework for understanding reliability issues and for designing reliability management policies. The report has made significant progress in identifying methodology for incorporating improvements in reliability into project and policy evaluation, while exploring the pitfalls that need to be avoided.
  • Executive Summary
    Most of us face unreliable travel services in our daily lives, with unexpected delays leading us to miss a train or arrive late for school or work. Whether it be for social or business events or deliveries of goods, reliability is a key quality of movement. A review of policies in ITF/OECD countries shows, however, that few countries explicitly incorporate reliability into transport policy making. This report aims at providing policy makers with a framework for understanding reliability issues, for incorporating reliability into project assessment, and for designing reliability management policies.
  • Setting the Scene
    This section provides an overview of the issue of reliability. First, there is a discussion of just what is meant by "reliability". Often unreliability is regarded as being synonymous with congestion, but they are different concepts and this is explained.
  • Monitoring Reliability as a Policy Signal
    In the foregoing discussion, it was concluded that reliability in transport has become increasingly important to commerce and personal lifestyles. As a network provider, Government may be a pivotal player in delivering optimal levels of reliability. It is therefore appropriate to ask whether government have strategies for ensuring that optimality. The key factor in such policy strategies is to identify prevailing reliability levels. That is, monitoring reliability can provide a policy signal. This section considers broad reliability indicators that can guide policymakers and planners.
  • Incorporating Reliability into Cost-Benefit Analysis
    A number of indicators were identified in the previous section that can be developed as policy signals to flag the need for possible government action on improving reliability. As discussed in Section 1, in the absence of direct pricing mechanisms for reliability, the cost-benefit analysis represents the best option for delivering optimal levels of reliability. Subsequent sections will review four main policy instruments for which cost-benefit analysis needs to be used.
  • Infrastructure Supply – Provision as a Policy Tool
    This section reviews the principles of infrastructure provision to influence the level of network reliability. Options reviewed for improving reliability include supplementing capacity when reliability is undermined by heavy demand and setting cost-effective infrastructure standards. The capacity options include building new rail lines and adding an additional highway; examples of cost-effective capacity include technical standards for the materials to be used and hence affecting maintenance levels, renewal rates or robustness to natural disasters. The section then discusses the practicality of infrastructure provision as a policy tool to improve reliability.
  • Influencing Supply – Management as a Policy Tool
    This section reviews the principles of managing the network to influence the level of its reliability. Management options reviewed can be divided into two categories: pro-active and active. Pro-active management of infrastructure mainly includes identification of network vulnerability to recurrent and non-recurrent unreliability. Dynamic processes, in turn, focus on active management of network to intensify oversight of network use once a network incident arises; such management systems include traffic control, accident clearing teams and rerouting strategies. Further, this section also discusses delays faced in different types of interfaces, such as those between ports and hinterland connections, borders of organisational interfaces.
  • Pricing Networks to Optimise Reliability
    This section reviews the principles of pricing for network use to influence the level of network reliability through demand management; and to supply differential levels of reliability reflecting granularity in user values of reliability. It has been noted, earlier, that reliability is often bundled with other attributes such as speed, convenience and cost, from which it can be very difficult to differentiate a separate market for reliability. Following on from this issue, this section considers how practical it is for pricing to deliver the levels of reliability consistent with diverse values placed on reliability.
  • Informing – Mitigating the Impacts of Unreliability
    This section focuses on the role for information in mitigating the negative impacts of unreliability. Travel time reliability depends on the user’s expectation of travel time. This expectation can vary according to the information available. Developments in technology may make it increasingly costeffective to supply up-to-the-minute information to network users. Traffic information can be used by network users to adapt their behaviour at short notice.
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Contributors to the Report
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