From plane to train ProRails’ quest towards a more sustainable way of travelling

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Currently, the aviation industry is growing at a speed that even if all other industries would become CO2 neutral, the Paris Agreement would not be achieved (Peeters,2017). Taking the train for journeys shorter than 750 kilometers would already be a great improvement regarding sustainability, as travelling by train is significantly less harmful in terms of CO2 emission. However, while being a good alternative regarding sustainability, at other factors such as travel time or price trains often score worse than planes. Various solutions to improve these factors in order to make trains really competitive have been suggested in the past. However, their implementation appears not that easy. The system of international train services consists of many stakeholders who all have their preferences in how to improve the train network. There is no clear problem description and no clear solution. Therefore, we can say that we are dealing with a wicked problem. This research is conducted from the perspective of the Dutch inframanager ProRail and tries to analyze this wickedness by applying group model building (GMB), explorative interviews and an in depth literature review. The main objective is to provide ProRail a theoretical perspective for improving their strategic and organizational decisions in order to contribute to the improvement of international train services. We start with an introduction on the topic of modal shift from plane to train. The second chapter examines the context of the problem and determines the complexity of that context. Here, a theoretical perspective on this complexity is provided. Next, a GMB session is conducted in order to generate ProRail’s vision on the system of interest and its required improvements. Hereby we identify the potential contribution of ProRail towards these improvements. By conducting explorative interviews we identify problems that ProRail encounters in setting strategic directions in favor of these improvements. This is followed by a literature review in order to formulate theoretical perspectives on the strategy and organizational development that helps to solve the problems of ProRail as identified during the explorative interviews. Finally, recommendations will be provided on how ProRail could set their strategic directions to contribute to the improvement of international train services.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen