WP / Themes



Theme A: Conceptual framework
The purpose of this theme is to establish a research platform for crosswise, substantial and methodological issues that contributes to integrating the themes within the project. The substantial issues in this context are the interlinkages between sustainability, institutions and tools within strategic national transport planning (Sager & Sørensen 2011). The methodological issues cover the challenges of learning and transferring knowledge from foreign experience to a Danish context (Marsden & Stead 2010) as well as the difficulties in transferring research results into practice. The work will involve review of literature and sessions of joint conceptual framework development. The result of this theme is a coherent understanding among the project participants of core concepts and connections which will provide the basis for the interdisciplinary synthesis in Theme F.

Theme B: Sustainability
In this theme the operationalisation of sustainability for transport planning will be studied and a performance measurement framework will be conceived. The notion of sustainability offers a comprehensive normative basis for decision support, but to implement it through strategic transport planning raises a number of conceptual as well as managerial challenges (Toleman & Rose 2009). The research into this theme will focus on indicators and performance measurement as the main operational mechanisms through which these challenges are addressed. Key methods will involve review of teoretical and practical sustainability literature, framework construction, and critical review and analysis of potential candidate indicators (Joumard & Gudmundsson 2010). The core outputs of this theme will be a framework and indicators for strategic transport planning as well a test of the performance measurement framework through an ongoing Danish transport case. To read the study plan for the Ph.D. – please look here link

Theme C: Institutions
The purpose of this theme is to understand the relationship between new organizational forms (such as privatized corporations and public-private partnerships), transport planning processes, and sustainable transport performance. The analytical framework draws its inspiration from institutional theory in comparative political economy and theories of changing organizational forms in a new governance perspective (Osborne, 2010). The transport sector continues to undergo significant institutional changes. During the era of New Public Management (NPM), services have been outsourced to private sector contractors who are pursuing performance management targets. Recently, governments and private sector companies have formed joint ventures and public-private partnerships for new opportunities in transport management.  Post-NPM reforms have emphasized the need of coordination and regulatory reforms (Sørensen & Longva 2011). The analysis will include document analysis and semi-structured interviews with key informants. The core results of the theme will be a comparative analysis of institutional frameworks of national transport planning in selected countries leading to improved knowledge of institutional change, sustainable transport performance and politics. To read the study plan for the Ph.D. – please look here link

Theme D: Tools
The purpose of this theme is to develop and adapt flexible tools for planning and evaluation which can be used in national sustainable transport planning (NSTP) for sustainability-oriented comprehensive assessment. These tools will be strategic in scope by the way they need to embrace sustainability objectives as expressed by new indicator sets coming out of Theme B with state-of-the-art appraisal methodology (Haezendonck ed. 2007; Jensen forthcoming) and strategic decision support (Leleur forthcoming). Point of departure will be a major review of recent work of relevance based on current Danish and foreign experience, with the latter including, among other things, recent American models working explicitly with sustainability objectives (Ramani et al. 2009). The outcome of this theme will enable NSTP assessment work to apply wider societal criteria sets including sustainability indicators in combination also with risk analysis. Due to their flexibility the tools will be possible to adapt to the decision-making contexts that are actualised by findings in Theme C and to demonstration and validation with regard to the case work in Theme E.


Theme E: Practitioner dialogue and case management
Much strategic planning work developed by researchers and agencies is not providing the expected effects (Healey 2009). Part of the reasons lies in the ‘Valley of Death’ between knowledge and practice, and research suggests that interaction between researchers and practitioners are critical with regard to achieving meaningful use of strategic work (Johnson et al. 2009). A key purpose of Theme E will be to help maintain a continuous dialogue with practitioners through a series of workshops and seminars. The theme will further contribute to the management and crosswise analysis of case studies to allow the creation of a common frame of reference that can motivate and support this dialogue with practitioners. A core output in addition to specific research findings from the theme will be a compilation of experience on effective practitioner dialogue for strategic planning.

Theme F:   Conclusions and dissemination
The purpose of this theme is to provide synthesis and disseminate results. The results include a framework for NSTP; this will provide guidance on how to connect principles of sustainability with organisational processes and the application of tools. Such a framework can underpin the emergent strategic planning process in Denmark and will provide a significant contribution to the need for sustainable transport performance evaluation programmes internationally (Bongardt et al. 2011). The SUSTAIN work will be summarised and covered in a final report containing all conclusions from SUSTAIN and thereby also providing the scientific foundation for NSTP. The results will be published in popular-science and international journals, presented at conferences, and published in an anthology. The overall outcome of this theme is the establishing of NSTP and related research results in SUSTAIN as a research and practice platform in transport planning that will continue to develop also after the completion of the project in 2015.