Capacity cost structure, welfare and cost recovery: are transport infrastructures with high fixed costs a handicap?
Faculty of Applied Economics
Antwerp :UA, 2008
Research paper / UA, Faculty of Applied Economics , 2008:1
University of Antwerp
In this paper, we consider a region that invests in infrastructure used by both local demand and through transport. We then compare transport systems that have, for a given capacity, the same total infrastructure cost but vary in the proportion of fixed costs and variable capacity costs. We show, first, that infrastructure which has (ceteris paribus) a higher share of fixed costs leads to higher welfare for the regional government building it. Contrary to what is commonly believed, it therefore requires less, rather than more, federal subsidies. Second, we find that, even for capacity characterized by, ceteris paribus, very high shares of fixed costs, financing of infrastructure is generally not an important issue as long as regions are allowed to toll through traffic. Third, if member states cannot toll through traffic, or if a federal authority (such as the EU or the USA) can impose pricing at the global marginal social cost, our analysis shows that this reduces investment incentives for the individual regions, and subsidies may be needed. We discuss the policy implications of these findings and illustrate all theoretical results numerically.