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Introduction: Issue Issue 27 7 Feb 2012

Power List 2012: New pattern of power amongst passenger transport’s top people

Compilation of New Transit’s annual survey of the key movers and shakers in passenger transport has highlighted significant changes in where the power lies, and who has real importance in sector leadership. James Dark and Peter Stonham introduce the power 100

The major changes reshaping the passenger transport business are having a significant impact on where real power lies. They include the roles given to key individuals leading the sector and of the organisations controlling policy and finance, and those driving new developments in technology and service delivery.

To reflect these tectonic shifts in how we should view power, influence and leadership in passenger transport, New Transit has restructured its annual and eagerly-awaited People Issue. We have expanded and elaborated on the single previous Power 50 listing approach. For the first time we  have selected the people setting the pace in  particular areas, from business to politics and lobbying to technological innovation. From across these categories, we have  identified the dozen biggest hitters. We have also sought to recognise the up and coming individuals whose impact in the next few years could be particularly significant, as the sector evolves further. In total, we have identified 100 key individuals.

One important context for our choices is the continuing development of multi-national playing fields and teams in passenger transport – in terms of where the major players operate, how ideas and policies are shaped, and the roles and postings of key individuals.

A clear manifestation is how wider European level influence on domestic transport has grown. Britain’s status as the most open market in Europe, in particular, continues to attract overseas players. By the end of  2011, European operators Deutsche Bahn/Arriva, Keolis, Abellio, RATP and Veolia/Transdev held an approximate 30% share of the of UK public transport market. Bus and rail contract wins enabled Abellio to cement its position. New entrant on the UK scene, RATP, established a presence and then made significant acquisitions, while DB/Arriva acquired further rail operations. Other state-owned companies including the Spanish and Italian rail operators Renfe and Trenitalia are amongst those eyeing opportunities to break into the UK as well. Keolis is shaping up to bid for some rail contracts alongside its majority shareholder, SNCF, rather than through its existing joint venture with Go-Ahead.

The impact of the UK experience is set to have a growing parallel in the situation on the Continent, as markets there are opened up to greater competition. In this and other respects, the power of the European Commission has been increasingly evident. Foundations have been put in place which could lead to the EC having greater influence over national policies and network provision in the future, as well as the international market place.

In the area of structural change, the ground has been laid for significant new developments as well, with UK plans to implement the blueprint for reform set out in the McNulty review of the rail industry’s costs and structure again setting the pace.   

Across the sector, economic conditions, the growth of user power aided by social media and the communications revolution, and  proposals for politically and environmentally sensitive reforms have seen protestors and lobbyists gain added influence.  They have already had some success in forcing changes to the regulatory framework and consumer rights, with the prospect of more to come. 

As recorded in New Transit over the past year, a further influence on the sector’s power structure is the increasing involvement in public transport of the IT industry and finance industry giants. Considerable innovation is also being driven by niche firms using new technological applications to shape the service offer and how it is presented to users. 

It all adds up to a fast-evolving matrix of forces to which the traditional leaders in transport must now relate.

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