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Title: Assessing the applicability of participatory multi-criteria analysis (MCA) methodologies to the appraisal of mega transport infrastructure
Author: Dean, M.
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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The topic of ‘how mega transport projects should be assessed’ continues to generate disputes amongst academics, infrastructure specialists, investors and governments alike. This Ph.D. research sought to explore the applicability and effectiveness of participatory MCA methodologies to the (economic, environmental and social) appraisal of such projects. Although very popular amongst academics, participatory MCA methodologies seem to have enjoyed limited practical application and there are no studies assessing their effectiveness. This research entailed several steps, where different methods of investigation and multiple sources of information, both primary and secondary, were combined together in an effort to increase the reliability of the results. Firstly, a comprehensive review of the literature, whose findings were validated and integrated by means of an expert focus group interview, was undertaken in the attempt to determine the key features of mega transport projects. An investigation into transport appraisal practice and traditional appraisal methodologies was then carried out through a comprehensive analysis of the existing literature, complemented with unstructured interviews and informal discussions with some international experts. Successively, an examination of over 60 publications on participatory MCA methodologies was performed with the objective of determining the main attributes and critical aspects of such methods. An analysis of the current trends in mega transport infrastructure planning and decision-making practice was also undertaken based on a series of interviews with several infrastructure practitioners and the analysis of three large-scale port and port-related projects, namely the Alameda freight rail corridor (US), the expansion of the Port of Rotterdam (Holland) and the London Gateway port complex (UK). The London Gateway port complex was also adopted as case study for a practical application of participatory MCA methodologies. Overall, the outcomes of this multi-actor multi-criteria appraisal exercise, together with the findings from the previous steps of research, led to the identification of several (methodological and non-methodological) issues potentially surrounding the practical application of such methods. These issues were ultimately explored through a survey questionnaire carried out amongst specialists and proponents of participatory techniques. The overall conclusion of the thesis is that participatory MCA methodologies represent an under researched area, where some critical themes have received limited consideration; contrasting views still exist on many fundamental aspects; and where, in many cases, the disconnection between theory and practice is apparent. In particular, the key principles, steps and structure of such methods are (directly or indirectly) based on the rational-comprehensive planning model, which hardly reflects the way projects are developed. Therefore, while, in principle, multi-actor multi-criteria procedures might be carried out to complement and integrate the information derived from conventional ex-ante analyses, it is difficult to see how such methods could significantly improve the decision-making process of major transport infrastructure projects.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available