This thesis explores factors influencing open access competition in long-distance passenger rail transport in Europe. It fills a gap in the existing literature by providing expert opinions on open access competition, by identifying and rating factors influencing competition positively or negatively as well as their correlation and shift over time, and by comparing practical examples of influencing factors in two cases. To answer the research questions, a combination of qualitative and quantitative methodology was applied: a Delphi study helped to construct a theoretical framework, the case study filled the framework with practical examples. To structure and frame the analysis and to reveal the cause-and-effect relationships, a PESTLE analysis was used. It clustered the identified factors into political, economic, social, technical, legal and environmental influence. This structured research approach reveals the following findings: open access competition is a tool to revitalise the passenger rail market, it is beneficial for customers by increasing quality and often decreasing prices, and it can improve the efficiency of incumbent operators. However, only a slight increase in competition is expected within the next 10 years. A total of 34 influencing factors were identified, of which political/legal and economic factors have the greatest influence. The findings show that the strength and type of factors vary between the different EU member states. An overall shift of factors can be observed over the last decade. It is also revealed that all factors closely relate to one another and are part of a network. Within this identified network, the right combination of influencing factors needs to be present to make open access competition possible. Finally, this thesis shows that the introduction of a competitive market proved to be difficult, especially due to the slow introduction of the necessary legal framework and the high economic risks and long-term investments. However, open access competition is possible and proves to be beneficial in the long run.

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