Specialised subsidiary bodies of railway companies

These bodies or organisations are in charge of specialised tasks with regard to management of interchanges, such as property, station developments and marketing. Typically, these are subsidiary entities of national railway companies such as SNCF in France, Deutsche Bahn in Germany, and ÖBB in Austria. The creation of a subsidiarity is considered very useful if the scale for exploitation of the interchange is of considerable size and value. The management also largely depends on the type of function. Gares & Connexions, a subsidiary of French national railway company SNCF, and the German railway, Deutsche Bahn, manage interchanges that are primarily train stations, whereas public transport authorities are typically in charge of interchanges without intercity connections (metro/light rail/bus as its main mode). For intermodality to function well, cooperation between stakeholders is essential if the interchange offers a complete mix of different transport modes and facilities provided by multiple operators.

Other options in the case of smaller interchanges could be installing a specific department or taskforce. It asks for specific expertise to be implemented successfully. Specialised expertise should be hired/ or created in the organisation to create and manage a subsidiarity. It is pointed out that the exploitation of retail services ask for marketing and retail expertise that in general is little present within a public transport operator (other than the commercialisation of public transport itself).




NODES strategic objectiveContribution
Enhance accessibility and integration +
Enhance intermodality +
Enhance liveability 0
Increase safety and security conditions +
Increase economic viability and costs efficiency +
Stimulate local economy +
Increase environmental efficiency 0
Increase energy efficiency 0

Good practice

Gares & Connexions – SNCF’s fifth business unit

Headed by Sophie Boissard, Gares & Connexions came into being in 2009. In 2011, SNCF’s fifth business unit, tasked with managing and developing all 3,000 railway stations in France, concentrated on three priorities:

  • Promote quality of service for passengers, carriers and towns through easier access to stations, online and in-station access to information, seamless travel, easily understandable layouts, and increased user comfort
  • Welcome all operators and transport modes: guaranteed equitable, transparent access to all transport operators and their customers, and to in-station amenities and services
  • Deploy the necessary investment to grow traffic, without adversely impacting carriers. This includes developing station environments to facilitate the daily lives of passengers and keep pace with urban transformation.

In partnership with local and regional authorities, Gares & Connexions has a brief to maintain, equip and develop stations. With the arrival of new operators on the rail transport market, together with a growing ridership, the railway station is a central component of the challenge of sustainable mobility. Today’s new urban focus, stations contribute to the attractiveness of cities, towns and their surrounding areas and blends harmoniously with them – an ambition spelled out in the use of the term Connexions.

This makes the railway station the nucleus of a transport hub, where all transport modes converge, to connect with metro, trams and buses and cycles, as well as passenger cars, taxis, etc.

Gares & Connexions also seeks to transform its stations in to fully-fledged comfort zones in town centres and to be closely attuned to passenger desires. As such, it responds to their everyday concerns through its policy of station improvements and innovative services, also opening stations to cultural events so that they can be shared by all.

Gares & Connexions has two subsidiaries:

  • AREP (Architecture – Town Planning – Civil Engineering – Design) and its own subsidiary PARVIS (Project Management on behalf of owners – Property and Station Development programmes).
  • A2C – Marketing of station spaces

Key figures:

  • More than 3,000 stations in France
  • 2 billion passengers pass through its stations each year
  • 140,000 train departures from stations each day
  • 13,000 SNCF staff work at or for the stations
  • 2,000,000 m2 of land owned by the stations, including 180,000 m2 of retail provision


Railway stations in Germany

The stations are managed by several subsidiaries of German railway company Deutsche Bahn. The operation of stations in Germany is performed by the following entities of the railway operator:

  • DB Netze (DB Netze Personenbahnhöfe) is responsible for railway infrastructure, especially in stations (track, signalling, overhead wires), but only up to the station platforms;
  • DB Netze Energy is responsible for energy supply as DB Netze Fahrweg is responsible for furrows;
  • DB Station & Service is responsible for the operation and provision of services at stations;
  • DB Mobility Networks Logistics is responsible, in conjunction with DB Real Estate, for the development projects of stations and the optimisation of Deutsche Bahn properties.


In Austria, ÖBB Immobilien is a subsidiary of the national railway company, ÖBB, and as a private undertaking responsible for development around train stations and property development.


In the Netherlands, NS is the owner of station buildings (including commercial facilities) while ProRail owns the infrastructure (transfer space of passengers including maintenance of building). Ownership relating to stations is often seen as complicated and complex. In the Netherlands, most station ownership relations can best be understood by looking at the diagram below. The stations can roughly be divided into a long-distance rail traffic and transport part (RVVI), the station building, and the station surroundings (including the square and the bus station). The RVVI (red colour) is owned by ProRail. It consists of the tracks, platforms, tunnels, stairs, and elevators. ProRail also finances the station building transfer facilities such as benches, clocks, signage and maintenance of space for the transfer of passengers. In addition, ProRail finances presentation facilities and bicycle racks and lockers.

Potential interchange performance improvement

It enables the responsible body to organise a true focus on the service provision to the traveller or customer and extensive commercial exploitation of the interchange and interchange area. In the case that all infrastructure and transport responsibilities are set together, there is a risk that there is a single focus on basis functionalities of the interchange, ignoring the door-to-door travel needs and quality experience of the customers. The interchange or group of interchanges should provide enough potential to exploit the non-transport services of the infrastructure. Otherwise the creating, for example, of a specific department might be more appropriate. In the case of the NS there is a clear advantage in terms of commercial exploitation and increased experienced quality by the customer.


The cost for the use of the tool should be in relation to the potential benefits. The creation of a subsidiarity engenders additional management cost, yet might also lead to significant additional resources (commercial exploitation, additional travellers).