EXPRESS Project: a Model of Collaborative International High-speed Rail Research

EXPRESS Project: a Model of Collaborative International High-speed Rail Research


J Abreu e Silva, G Chen, CESUR, IST, PT; J Sussman, MIT, US


The EXPRESS project aims to study HSR in Portugal with research in five areas: strategic planning, innovative financing, economic and land-use impacts of HSR, dynamic demand forecasting under uncertainty, and configuration of HSR freight services.


Since 2006, Portuguese universities have collaborated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on a range of research projects in five key focus areas as part of the MIT-Portugal Program (MPP) with the financial support of both the Portuguese government and industrial partners. Within the transportation focus area, one of the newest MPP efforts is the EXPRESS project, which brings together Instituto Superior Tecnico of Lisbon, the University of Coimbra, MIT, and RAVE, Portugal high-speed rail (HSR) development agency. This multi-institutional, transatlantic project aims to support efforts to deploy HSR in Portugal with timely academic research in five key areas: strategic planning of HSR, innovative HSR financing, measuring economic and land-use development impacts of HSR, dynamic demand forecasting under uncertainty and cross-modal competition, and configuration of high-speed freight services. This paper summarizes the motivation and objectives of the research project, summarizes the management structure, describes the five key areas of research activity, and outlines the preliminary and future expected contributions of EXPRESS to international transportation research and practice.

The principal objectives of MPP as a whole are to expand the capacity of advanced research in Portugal through collaboration with MIT and industrial partners and to develop research innovations for export. The EXPRESS project is no different. With the participation of industrial partner RAVE, the project aims to generate innovative planning approaches, financial tools, economic impact measurement models, demand forecasting techniques, and freight evaluation processes with immediate applicability to the Portuguese HSR system. Project leadership also envisions applications for these innovations in the medium-term to HSR efforts in other countries.

With participating researchers spanning four institutions, including three in Portugal and one in the US, management of people and activities presents an uncommon challenge. The EXPRESS project, like many other international projects, avails itself of advanced communications and collaboration technologies, but also enjoys a project structure that is conducive to production of valuable research results. This structure includes leadership roles for all participating institutions in at least one research activities as well as a pairing of at least two institutions for the conduct of each research activity.

This paper, through its description of the various EXPRESS elements (objectives, management structure, activities, and research contributions) serves as an example of potential use to others engaged in multi-institutional and/or international collaborative transportation research. Topics such as HSR are appropriate for exactly this sort of collaboration, given the diversity of world experience with HSR and the need for broad surveys of international best practices and wide dissemination of research outcomes.


Association for European Transport