Since 1996, the International Union of Railways (UIC) has facilitated the Lasting Infrastructure Cost Benchmarking (LICB) of 15 Western European railways. This new document represents an important step forward in valuable UIC cost benchmarking. This report summarises the trends and developments in the last 15 years (1996 to 2010) of key figures for network characteristics and utilisation as well as for infrastructure maintenance and renewal expenditures from a European perspective.
New members have joined the project, giving this survey a wider overview.
Implementations of new methodology and an online collaborative tool have improved the collection, checking and data analysis on behalf of participants.
As the normalisation approach dates back quite a long time already, further methodological improvements have been developed and will be applied. Currently, a comparison of steady state regeneration rates is being introduced in order to get a realistic picture of networks in different stages of their life cycle. Infrastructure performance will also be considered in the ongoing LICB work on the basis of train-affecting asset failures.
As rail traffic demand is expected to increase continuously over the next few years, infrastructure managers have to be prepared for higher network utilisation, shorter asset lifetimes and less available track possession times for maintenance and renewals. The continuation of the Lasting Infrastructure Cost Benchmarking will serve as a powerful tool by providing initial steps for identifying improvement areas.
National railways in Western Europe operate and maintain over 225,000 km of track infrastructure to support ever-increasing demand for the movement of people and goods by train. Approximately 2.6 billion passenger train-km and 580 million freight train-km were moved on these tracks in 2010, an increase of 13% since 1996. The annual cost of maintaining and renewing the existing infrastructure is around 17 billion euro, and in addition many railway infrastructure managers are investing heavily in enhancements and upgrades.
In contrast to the competition provided by multiple train operating companies, the national railway infrastructure is usually managed by one state-owned body. This increases the need for international comparisons in order to identify opportunities for improvements in costs and performance. Benchmarking has proved to be a powerful tool for the rail industry; by providing quantitative performance indicators in many areas, it promotes critical questioning of current practices and supports robust target-setting and strategy development. But benchmarking does not provide immediate answers, nor does it prescribe how an organisation can change to achieve its goals or define the culture required to implement improvements.
UIC has facilitated the Lasting Infrastructure Cost Benchmarking project. A working group of railway representatives monitored the work. LICB was designed to identify the cost level of all the participating railways, to draw conclusions for each individual railway and to highlight opportunities for improvement. The study aims to link asset condition, quality and reliability with lifecycle costs.
In each of the past 15 years, cost information and other critical data has been collected to create a database that makes this benchmarking process possible. This data also allows for the evaluation of trends regarding costs. Today, data collected for LICB helps to answer the following key questions for participating infrastructure managers:
- How much is spent on maintenance and renewals per year in comparison to other countries?
- How does spending for maintenance and renewals change over time?
LICB outputs are also used by the participating infrastructure managers themselves to specify key indicators in performance and funding contracts with government, or to provide continuous monitoring and support for long-term renewals planning. The outputs can also provide input for other benchmarking methods such as econometric studies and can be used for in-depth root cause analysis.
UIC takes care of highly confidential data concerning its members. Thanks to committed and involved infrastructure managers and their staff, it is possible to collect and maintain data of the highest quality.