Costs of unreliable transport rival those of congestion

PARIS — A study by International Transport Forum is calling for more emphasis on transportation reliability, a problem that it contends is on par with congestion.

The report from ITF was prepared for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development for its annual global mobility summit on “Transport and Innovation” to be held in Leipzig, Germany, from May 26-28.

Findings by the Paris-based think tank suggest transport reliability needs more policy prominence because costs incurred as a result of unreliable transport may rival those generated by congestion.

“The increased importance of scheduling in personal and freight mobility has underlined the need for a more reliable transport system,” says Stephen Perkins, head of the ITF/OECD Joint Transport Research Centre. “Significant variations in travel time reduce the efficiency of transport systems. Leaving earlier to ensure on-time arrival consumes time available for other activities.”

The new report, “Improving Reliability on Surface Transport Networks,” argues that reliability should be better incorporated into transport policy making. A review of policies in ITF/OECD countries shows that so far few countries explicitly incorporate reliability into transport policy making.

According to the report, project assessment needs to be improved to incorporate reliability. The study provides tools to do this by suggesting ways to measure and value reliability. Such methods have been used on a pilot basis in a small number of countries, such as the Netherlands, Sweden and Britain.

Recommendations are made for possible improvements in transport planning and operations that explicitly incorporate values of reliability. Case studies of commercial operations and a range of policy initiatives across OECD and ITF countries provide examples of policies that can be used to deliver more reliable networks in a cost-effective manner.

The report was developed by a group of international experts under the auspices of the ITF/OECD Joint Transport Research Centre.

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