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Organisation form, scale effects and efficiency in the British bus industry

Abstract

The British bus industry is examined in light of fundamental reform in ownership and regulation. The industry is divided between privately and publicly owned companies, with the private sector further split between publicly listed owned subsidiaries and private limited companies. The change in ownership structure since privatization is analysed, and Data Envelopment Analysis used to estimate the extent of returns to scale and technical efficiency, as defined by one output and three inputs. Technical efficiency is further divided into managerial and organisational components, and comparisons made of median efficiency levels using a Mann Whitney statistical test.

Increasing returns to scale are found for smaller companies, but the size of such returns varies with the company type. A minimum efficiency scale is identified, with constant returns above this point. A high degree of technical inefficiency is found to be present in the industry, which may initially suggest a lack of competition and reflect the oligopolistic structure that has emerged since privatisation. Privately owned companies are identified as more technically efficient, however this is due to significantly less organisational constraints, and considerable managerial inefficiency exists in this group. It is finally concluded that the high level of inefficiency may not reflect ownership, but rather industry characteristics, and rather than a lack of competition may be indicative of wasteful competition. It is suggested therefore there may be a need to make the market contestable rather than openly competitive.

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Cowie, J., Asenova, D. Organisation form, scale effects and efficiency in the British bus industry. Transportation 26, 231–248 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1005121506841

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  • competition
  • data envolopment analysis
  • efficiency
  • privatisation
  • regulation
  • urban bus