Socio-environmental Benefits of Rail Urban Projects: European Benchmarking

Socio-environmental Benefits of Rail Urban Projects: European Benchmarking


R Cascajo, TRANSYT, Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, ES



Congestion is one the main problem in most urban areas along Europe. Motorised mobility has increased in a significant way and cars? pressure has deteriorated city centres? liveable conditions.

Rail urban projects (tram, metro and light rail systems) appear as the optimal solution in many cases for alleviating these problems. Nevertheless, they require large investments in order to be implemented, above all in infrastructure construction and maintenance costs. These investments are much higher than for implementing solutions based on alternative transport modes, for example, a new bus line. Therefore, the financial profitability of these transport investments is very low. However there are other not economic benefits ?social equity, environmental improvements, liveable conditions- induced by such rail projects.

This paper presents a new multicriteria methodology to integrate most of social and environmental benefits associated to big rail based solutions in urban areas. This new methodology has been developed in the framework of a V FP European project called TranSEcon (Urban Transport and Socio-economic Development). This evaluation procedure has been tested and applied in 13 European cities where new rail based projects have been implemented some 10 years ago. Therefore it has been possible to check medium and long-term effects on their development, environmental quality standards and mobility patterns.

The MCA assessment consider a number of social and environmental criteria to achieve the global objective of sustainability: social equity, improve of public transport use, urban regeneration, air pollution, traffic noise, greenhouse effect and safety improvements. Some of these criteria are quantitative but in other cases they are qualitative by nature, so suitable indicators have been designed in order to measure the defined criteria.

The method settles a procedure to assign to each criterion a weight to represent its relative importance to the objective of sustainability. Weights have been determined through a consultation process where key actors (transport operators, developers, local and regional goverment, and users) and research teams have taken part.

Once the indicators have been weighted and calculated, the following and final step in the analysis is the aggregation procedure to obtain the overall social and environmental benefits of rail urban projects.

The results of this research show a number of findings from projects evaluated. They indicate which effects ate more important in each situation. They also allow to compare the effectiveness of different type of projects: metro or trams; outskirts or central projects; radial versus tangential lines; and when the new line constitute a significant part of the project or it is a small one.

The overall results show when, where and how new rail projects could produce significant improvements in the current social, economic and environmental situation and therefore big investments could be socially justified.


Association for European Transport