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French Economist Wins Prize for Innovative Study on Rail Freight Markets

ITF Young Researcher of the Year Award to Florent Laroche of Lyon University for “brain-trains” study carried out at Antwerp University

Dr. Florent Laroche of Lyon University will receive the International Transport Forum’s Young Researcher of the Year Award at the 2017 Summit of transport ministers on 1 June in Leipzig, Germany.

Florent Laroche is an assistant professor (Maître de Conférences) at the Transport, Urban Planning and Economics Laboratory, University Lumière Lyon 2. His research interests comprise the analysis of network performance, markets and strategic actors, new forms of mobility and the impact of digital technology on lifestyles.

His award-winning paper develops an innovative approach to measuring the intensity of competition on the European rail freight market by leveraging little-used data and employing novel statistical tools. Research for the paper was carried out at the University of Antwerp, Belgium, where Dr. Laroche led a team of the “brain-trains” project ( funded by the Belgian Federal Science Fund (BESPO).

His prize-winning paper reviews the impact of rail freight liberalisation in the EU in 2007. Ten years after this reform, new actors have appeared and governments are rethinking their approach to regulatory interventions. Against this background, the paper aims to answer two questions: First, how intense is competition in rail freight in the EU today? Second, what novel economic levers for regulating can governments bring to bear in an open market?

With research on rail freight in the EU scant and prior in-depth analyses limited by lack of data, the paper contributes to current knowledge in a double fashion: It provides a disaggregated analysis of the rail freight market at European level by including hitherto little-used data comprising historic actors as well as new entrants, and it uses statistical tools currently only employed in other industries.

The results show a strong intensity of competition in European rail freight since 2007. Numerous new operators have appeared, and excess profits linked to monopolistic structures have been much reduced. For the long term, however, the persistence of technical barriers to market entry could lead to the disappearance of a certain number of operators and create a risk of concentration. Yet the study finds few signs for an emerging monopoly or duopoly in Europe, as the economies of scale in the sector are moderate.

“It is a tremendous honour for me and my team at Antwerp University to receive this prestigious award. More work in this field needs to be done, and our main ambition was to demonstrate the need for an in-depth understanding of the rail freight sector and to improve the methods for its analysis,” said Dr. Laroche.

“This is a necessary condition for better economic regulation and more efficient policies to achieve modal shift in freight. One way to achieve this could be the creation of a European rail freight observatory, possibly attached to the European Union Agency for Railways.”

Dr. Laroche will be available for interviews during the Summit in Leipzig. He will present key findings of his award-winning paper at the Summit’s Open Stage Café on Thursday, 1 June at 18:00 hours.

Visit the 2017 Summit website for more information:

Read the winning paper here (until 6 July 2017)

Media Contact:
Michael KLOTH
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About this Award
The ITF Young Researcher of the Year Award aims to highlight the importance of transport research for sound transport policy formulation and implementation and to foster closer links between transport policy and research. The award carries a prize of 5 000 euros. It is open to young researchers under 35 years of age who have undertaken their research in an institution, university or consultancy firm located in a member country of the International Transport Forum. More…

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