TU Delft researcher improves modelling for effects of kilometre charge

News - 12 May 2017

It is highly likely that some form of kilometre charge will be on the political agenda during the present talks on the formation of the new government. However, there is much room for improvement in the models used to predict the effects of a kilometre charge. Erik-Sander Smits has combined know-how from game theory, choice analyses, traffic flow theory and the transport economy to create a better modelling. On Tuesday 16 May the NWO researcher will be awarded a PhD at TU Delft for his work on this subject.


Charging for mobility is a politically controversial instrument. Up to now the effects of such policy have been estimated using strategic planning models. Erik-Sander Smits: ‘These models using mathematical equations always give a simplified version of reality. It is better to include the underlying mechanisms that are significant for charging as realistically as possible, as only then can the policymakers lend the models any credibility.’

Alternative framework

For this reason Smits identified the disadvantages of the current network models and designed an alternative. This alternative combines game theory, analysis of discrete choices, traffic flow theory and the transport economy. Smits: ‘A huge benefit is that you can include the preferences of various parties involved in charging, making it possible to identify potential conflicts and calculate solutions based on different concepts.’ Smits conducted an experiment to illustrate this, using the Randstad conurbation for his case study.

Collaborating parties

Smits: 'I took three actors as a hypothetical basis, each of whom had their own reason for wanting to implement a charging measure: a general kilometre charge by the central government, a cordon charge around Amsterdam by the City of Amsterdam, and a change in train ticket prices by the NS. If the three parties work together, there is no need to implement a cordon charge as the kilometre charge – which is used to improve social prosperity – is a better means of achieving the underlying goal of the cordon charge, namely improving the economic position of the city.’ It also became clear in the case study that the national government and the railway company had conflicting interests. According to Smits, a pricing level is conceivable whereby the railway company does not directly make a large profit, but receives compensation from the government.


Smits also calculated shortened journey times and the reduction in emissions. For this he used the latest model innovations to sketch as realistic a picture of the traffic situation as possible and to limit the calculation times. The researcher does however add a reservation: ‘The modelling needs to undergo further refinement before it can be used as an actual policymaking tool. But we should be able to achieve that in a fairly short time.'

Background information

The doctoral research project 'Strategic Network Modelling for Mobility Pricing' by Erik-Sander Smits is part of the 'Innovative Pricing for Sustainable Mobility (I-PRISM)' programme, part of the NWO programme Sustainable Accessibility of the Randstad. The promotors are Professor Bart van Arem and Professor Michiel Bliemer.


Erik-Sander Smits, e.smits@tudelft.nl, +31 (0)610857379
Carola Poleij (TU Delft Media relations officer), c.poleij@tudelft.nl, +31 (0)641611510