Planning Procedures for Transport Infrastructure ? Can Countries Learn from Each Other?

Planning Procedures for Transport Infrastructure ? Can Countries Learn from Each Other?


E McCaig, McCaig Services, Edinburgh, UK; A Baanders, ECORYS, Rotterdam, NL


Lessons drawn from comparing transport infrastructure planning procedures from several countries. Examining the increasingly complex and lengthy procedures in those countries made it possible to derive a number of strategic level implications.



All over Europe, and indeed on many continents, authorities are struggling with the planning of transport infrastructure. While new transport infrastructure can bring benefits to the regions served, there are also negative impacts, and the trade-off has to be made in the democratic process. This appears to be increasingly difficult; many countries are facing increases in procedure durations, and efforts to simplify and shorten them do not seem to lead to substantial increases in decision speed.

The purpose of this paper is to present a number of lessons that can be drawn from comparing the experience of a number of countries, lessons which may be relevant for many countries.

The origin of this paper was a short review of policies and procedures in other national or sub-national jurisdictions undertaken to inform the provisions in the Scottish Transport and Works Bill under preparation. The purpose of the review was to prepare information on procedures and project durations and on the democratic procedures involved and to draw out general implications. It did not include the provision of advice on the content of the Scottish Bill, so the implications of the research could be of wider interest and applicability.

Transport infrastructure works proposals often give rise to contentious issues, relating to the conflict between private rights and public benefit and to many environmental and economic considerations. Large-scale linear developments affect many communities and stakeholders, so the consultative and democratic processes adopted may be crucial in moving project planning procedures forward and targeting the best planning decision. It emerged during the research that transport infrastructure works issues had not been wholly resolved in any of the countries we looked at. Also, it seemed that the interrelationship of transport works procedures with other local legislation and other circumstances made it difficult to transfer procedures from one country to another.

Despite the complexity of the issues, examination of procedures in a number of countries made it possible to derive implications at strategic level and to identify the principal factors that practitioners might take into account when considering these issues in the context of their own legislatures. These strategic level implications are the main subject of this paper.


This was a desk-based research project. Procedures in other countries were obtained from internet and library searches and from questionnaires completed in another project that were made available to the Scottish research project. Academic research reports were consulted. The countries mainly covered in the research were the Netherlands (especially), Eire, Poland, Greece, New Zealand, Austria and Canada. Countries covered in less detail were Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, England, France and the USA.

Main Findings

Some main findings developed from the research were:

? The review did not identify any country where practitioners appear to have resolved the issues to their satisfaction.
? The key factor in determining the average duration of planning is control of risk to the planned procedures, which seems more important than trying to reduce the allotted time.
? It is important to recognise that schemes that were delayed or abandoned because of objections may have arrived at the best planning decision. Abandonment need not mean failure, even if some planners would consider it as such.
? The natural pace of project planning is slow; most schemes will require at least 5-8 years from conception to start of construction. Political and social changes over this period may affect scheme validity and changes to the ?rules? and standards of scheme appraisal are possible.
? Effective public consultation at an early stage is important.
? Effective consultation with stakeholders is also important, and this should cover the rules and principles as well as the development of individual schemes.
? Compulsory purchase did not come through as a major issue. There is general acceptance that this was sometimes necessary. However, affected individuals and organisations could find means of objecting using unrelated legislation, e.g. EC law or constitutional law.

The aim of the research was to provide information and argument of interest to practitioners. This was targeted by identifying twelve principal variables in the legislation and the administrative protocols. These will be discussed in the paper and are listed here:

1 Primacy or otherwise of transport infrastructure works legislation over e.g. planning or environmental law.
2 Vulnerability of the legislation and procedures to challenge under legislation that it cannot readily override, e.g. constitutional rights, human rights, EC or international law.
3 Vulnerability of decisions and procedures to challenge, e.g. by judicial review.
4 Nature and timing of public consultation.
5 Nature and timing of consultation with other players, e.g. planning authorities.
6 Quality of original planning and assessment, and commitment of stakeholders to the methods and processes used.
7 Identity of the permitting authority (e.g. minister, local authority, parliament).
8 Identity of the proposing organisation.
9 Staging and programming issues (including financing and prioritisation) against other schemes and expenditures.
10 Fast-tracking legislation for selected schemes.
11 Adjustment of procedures or change of players for schemes of varying scale.
12 Compulsory purchase legislation and practice.

For each of the variables, examples of experience from different countries will be given.


Association for European Transport