The following is a Policy Brief from the International Transport Forum:
Most of us face unreliable travel services in our daily lives. Unexpected delays make us miss a train or arrive late for work. Whether for business meetings, social events or deliveries of goods, reliability is a key quality of seamless transport. A review of policies in OECD countries shows, however, that only few countries explicitly incorporate reliability into transport policy making. Research at the International Transport Forum at the OECD shows that:
? A wide range of instruments is available to manage reliability and the policy framework proposed distils these into four principal options (Provision, Information, Management, Pricing);
? In order to deliver the most cost-effective reliability option, reliability should be incorporated into cost-benefit assessments;
? Reliability targets need to be applied with caution;
? Unreliability of transport constitutes a significant cost;
? Reliability is highly case-specific but improving reliability adds anything between 10 percent to doubling the project benefits.
Technological advances and investments in infrastructure have lowered transport costs and increased average transport speeds. Supply chains are, more than ever underpinned by global and, often, just-in-time production and distribution systems. Time has become a critical factor and timely delivery of components has replaced traditional stock-holding. Broadening trade links have brought greater volumes of goods, moving further and in increasingly complex and interdependent way. This complexity is echoed in passenger movements which have also become more complex with changing patterns of employment, increased disposable income and leisure time. These changing patterns have increased the importance of schedules – and of keeping to those schedules, putting a premium on transport reliability.
Unreliability makes journeys frustrating and causes stress. The feeling of travelling without control over one’s travel time is a disempowering experience, and bad experiences are remembered by travellers. Individuals, companies and infrastructure managers affected by unreliability respond in a number of ways; individuals build extra (buffer) time into their journeys to allow for the possibility of delay; companies adapt their pattern and timing of operations or build in a buffer stock of goods; infrastructure managers often provide traffic flow information to reduce the impact of unreliability.
Research at the International Transport Forum at the OECD suggests that costs incurred as a result of unreliable transport may rival those generated by congestion. A delay may have ripple-effects or snowballing effects, affecting other activities or stages in the personal or logistics chain, constituting a cost to those involved. A delay at one stage in a person’s schedule of activities can mean delays in later related, or unrelated, tasks. Similarly, while logistics chains are built in such a way as to reduce their vulnerability to individual events, any delays in individual consignments can still reverberate through the chain. Because the transport task is part of a chain, a break in any part of it is a break in the entire chain. An assembled television set with only 99 of its 100 components is an incomplete product that can be neither shipped nor sold.
A wide range of instruments is available to manage reliability. The policy framework proposed in a study by the International Transport Forum at the OECD distils these into four principal options: