This thesis analyzes and discusses the development of the Swedish government’s role as owner and financier of roads and railroads from the 1930s until the 2010s. The influence on the development of the government’s role from two main theoretical paradigms is discussed and analyzed. These are:
a) neoclassical and welfare economics; and
b) new institutional economic theory with an organizational focus.
The thesis shows that there has been a shift from an institutional view on the organization and financing of the road and railroad systems following the nationalization in the 1930-40s, to a view more based on welfare economics from the 1970s.
Technology, economics and politics are three important factors influencing the development of the transport systems and of the government’s role. In the thesis these factors are covered in a co-evolutionary approach applied for analysis of the historical development. This approach connects to a dynamic view on organizations and firms in institutional theory.
Over time there have been shifts in the strength of the factors (technology, economics and politics) influencing the development. There have also been controversies around financing principles and contradictions between different elements in the policies actually pursued over time. One such controversy has been whether to aim for full cost coverage or for marginal cost coverage.
The thesis discusses how planning and coordination in the transport infrastructure sector can come about. A centralized public sector planner mode is contrasted towards a private sector spontaneous ordering mode. It is argued that it is difficult for a centralized planner to collect the necessary information and transform it into deepened knowledge in order to coordinate. A decentralized spontaneous ordering mode might though allow for including the necessary knowledge.
The thesis illustrates a number of trade-offs that must be taken into consideration when discussing a possible future development for transport infrastructure and the government’s role. The following aspects are discussed:
- the balance between public and private as the basic organizing principle;
- the balance between government and regions/local governments when it comes to
- the geographical division of responsibility; and
- the balance between the national and EU levels for strategic transport infrastructure planning and coordination, also in relation to spontaneous coordination and centralized planning.
The government has acted reluctantly and pragmatically and gradually developed its ownership role and the general policies in the sector. The government’s emphasis on market failure as its basic assumption has become stronger over time.
The thesis brings a deepened understanding of the long-term development of the government’s ownership and policy formation in the transport infrastructure sector in relation to the two theoretical paradigms. This combination of a historical view with the theoretical economic background gives new insights into the past and future of the government’s role for transport infrastructure.
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2013. , 107 p.