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Public-private partnerships in urban public transport

There are many different ways to run an urban public transport system. What is best for one city might not be best for another. There are many variable factors, such as a city’s size and population density, the strength of its civic institutions and its levels of poverty and inequality.

In many cities services are planned, financed and run by publicly owned companies, while in others there are public-private partnerships, which fall into three main categories:

  • Where private operators provide services using infrastructure that remains under public control. We call these operational PPPs. They are typical in Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).
  • Where public operators provide services using infrastructure under private sector control. We call these infrastructure PPPs. They have been used particularly to build, renew and/or maintain railway tracks, signalling, and stations.
  • Where private operators provide services on infrastructure also under private control. We call these concession PPPs. These have been the typical form of railway privatisation and light rail development.

You can download a detailed briefing about PPPs (QPT Briefing 16), which includes evidence about how PPPs of different types have worked in cities around the world. Below there is also a link to a piece on the London Underground experience of PPP.

Public-private partnerships in urban public transport — QPT Briefing No. 16

London Underground at 150: the best and worst of PPPs