Despite the fact, that in 1949 the Federal Republic of Germany had decided to base its economic system on the concept of Social Market Economy, the transport sector in the 1950s and 1960s was characterized by a strict regulation, prohibiting competition in most transport markets. One fundamental aim of this regulation was the protection of the state owned railway company (Deutsche Bundesbahn). In the paper, at first the transformation of Germany's transport policy from a system of anti-competitive regulation to a framework for competitive markets is shown. Nevertheless, this process has not been straightforward. Especially in the late 1960s, policy makers intended to adopt an even stricter regulation. Moreover, the decisive impetus towards deregulation came from outside, namely the 1985 ruling of the European Court of Justice on the common transport market. In the second part of the paper, two current discussions in the field of transport policy are reviewed. Firstly, a strong support for governmental interventions aiming at a reasonable modal split can be observed. In contrast, within the Social Market Economy, the modal split should be the result of an open market process, not a target of transport policy. Nevertheless, in order to achieve an economically efficient modal split, a level playing field should be provided, leading to many controversies about the elements of a non-discriminatory framework for intermodal competition. Secondly, as mobility is a crucial prerequisite for participating in social, cultural and political life, transport policy makers intend to guarantee a certain degree of mobility for everybody. Therefore, many public transport companies are owned or subsidized by local or regional authorities, in order to enable affordable prices for transportation. It is shown in the paper that vouchers for the use of public transport services show a higher degree of compatibility with the concept of the Social Market Economy than other state interventions. Especially, vouchers do not distort the price mechanism, provide incentives for more customer-orientation and lead to a higher degree of transparency.
Transport policy competition policy regulation social market economy