Classics in Transport Analysis III, Railways

Chris Nash, Mark Wardman, Kenneth Button and Peter Nijkamp (eds), Classics in Transport Analysis III, Railways, Edward Elgar, London (2003), 556 pp., £120.00.

Classics in Transport Analysis III, RailwaysEdward Elgar have already produced two volumes in this series, on maritime and air transport, in which classic articles are brought together in one volume. By definition in such volumes there is no original material and editors have to entice potential readers by their careful and clever choice and arrangement of articles, and by their introduction to the volume, which will, hopefully, contextualise, synthesise and educate. The editors of this volume on railways immediately introduce some subversion into the mix by redefining the seeming remit. They decide not to focus on 'classics' per se, unless you feel that the 1990s, which account for a quarter of the papers reproduced in the volume, were the golden era of railway transport analysis - 'Discuss.' Instead they have sought to bring together 'a set of papers which collectively cover the issues we consider important to a current understanding of the analysis of rail transport' (p. xiii). There are certainly many 'classics', including papers by hotelling, Foster and Beesley, and Griliches but the editors freely admit to including some relatively obscure papers. Although the inclusion of some of these obscure papers may be questioned, in general it would seem to be a commendable approach if the target audience is practitioners or serious students of railway transport analysis (serious in the sense that they have the necessary technical skills to follow the theory and especially some of the econometrics that various papers utilise). The editors are also to be commended for their introduction: it is clear and concise, putting the papers in their historiographical and theoretical context in a manner that even the non-technical will be able to understand. It is also proactive in that it raises several interesting questions, points to areas of neglected research and tries to resurrect the reputation of some unfairly neglected papers; reading it whets the appetite of the reader.

The volume is split into six sections: costs and productivity (five papers), pricing (three), regulation and privatisation (four), econometric rail demand models (six), disaggregate choice modelling (five) and investment (five). The section on costs and productivity, which is dominated by debates about America, and that on pricing, driven by debates focused on Europe, effectively show how econometric methodology has penetrated railway analysis and how it has been utilised in an increasingly sophisticated manner over time. Indeed, this is a theme that runs through most of the sections. The section on regulation and privatisation begins with a classic paper by Baumol, which is followed by case studies on probably the three most significant countries in this field: the United States, Japan and Britain. The next section on rail demand includes influential papers by Tyler and Hassard, who developed the 'rooftop model', and by Owen and Phillips, on the effect of economic factors on inter-urban passenger demand. The following section also focuses on demand, in particular on mode choice models, which deal not only with factors such as alternative transport modes but also with 'secondary' factors such as comfort, convenience and reliability of delivery. The final section on investment is possibly the least coherent, although this is a relative criticism which reflects more on the impressive collation of papers in previous sections. Throughout the editors ensure that freight traffic is not forgotten.

Overall, its primary audience will probably welcome this volume. However, it is less clear that it will appeal to transport historians, particularly those who lack or are not interested in econometric training, since it does not have an explicit historical remit and those papers that are most relevant for them are the older papers which most will already own.