MPhil/PhD students

Helen Chen

Primary supervisor Prof. Harry T. Dimitriou, OMEGA Centre, Bartlett School of Planning, UCL
Secondary supervisor  Dr. John Ward, OMEGA Centre, Bartlett School of Planning, UCL
Sponsor Private funding
Starting date  June 2014
Project completion date  June 2018
Over the last thirty years or so, there has been a remarkable growth in the construction of large-scale transport infrastructure projects across the world. Under the processes of globalization and urbanization (re)development, transport infrastructure networks dramatically, but highly unevenly, ‘warp’ and refashion the spaces and time of all aspects of interaction – in economic, socio-cultural, political-institutional and ecological aspects. Nevertheless, many researches have underlined the fact that MTIPs are inherently complex, risky, which rarely fulfil original goals support. Critics have also argued that such premium MTIPs with overwhelming external orientation, economic and political influences tend to far outweigh connections with the surrounding local metropolis particularly in socio-cultural and environmental considerations.The principle aim of this PhD study is to examine whether MTIPs as a tool of government institutions could effectively contribute to long-term strategic regional development in production and transformation of metropolitan regions under the uncertain trends in the 21st century. Moreover, the study emphasise the importance of the sufficient institutional governance implications, learning and changes which are necessary to take place in a manner to balance the dynamic tensions and harmonies between global (interests) and local (needs) in project decision-making processes, in a way more consistent with principles of sustainability.

An analysis of Chinese case study – Hangzhou Bay Bridge development will be conducted during the course of the research. The paper concludes by highlighting the significance of understanding the ‘power of contexts’ on such projects for Chinese government when formulating relevant policy and planning responses to the challenges of strategic sustainable development ahead.

Alireza Kolahi

Primary supervisor Prof. Harry T. Dimitriou, OMEGA Centre, Bartlett School of Planning, UCL
Secondary supervisor  Dr. John Ward, OMEGA Centre, Bartlett School of Planning, UCL
Starting date  April 2013
Project completion date  April 2017
Most mega projects that have shaped urban spaces in the past half-century have been planned and developed by regional or state governments, with a combination of national, regional and private financing, supported by a mixture of national and international policies and global flows of capital, technology and expertise. Frequently, the decision-making process is seen as a struggle and sometimes the mistake lies in our perception of the way in which the stakeholders and institutions function and interact with each another across the project lifecycle. Thus, transparency, good governance, accountability, attention to minority shareholder rights and increasing trust between the project stakeholders and institutions as well as developing effective soft infrastructure for the most difficult of contemporary issues could be used to bring about positive and compassionate changes in the decision-making of planning, appraisal and delivery of mega infrastructure projects.The PhD study will take mega infrastructure projects as the setting and the research will evaluate and study a number of mega infrastructure projects, each with very different contexts, so as to gain a comprehensive understanding of the subject, in order to find the best international practices in regard to the treatment of trust and transparency in the decision-making process. In these rapidly changing times, it is vital that we further our knowledge and abilities efficiently and apply greater analytical and technical skills to the decision-making processes of mega infrastructure projects. I wish to examine what challenges project stakeholders and promoters face during the lifecycle of such projects and in what ways they are restrained or pressured by external factors and the overall context of the projects. Further to explore what constitutes successful decision-making, given that there are many stakeholders involved both from the public and the private sector in planning, appraisal and the delivery of mega infrastructure projects.The main aim of the study is to ultimately provide a working framework in regard to the treatment of trust and transparency in the decision-making of mega infrastructure projects, which can be used by project promoters and stakeholders in mega transport projects to aid the planning, appraisal and delivery of such projects.

Juan Alberti

Primary supervisor Prof. Harry T. Dimitriou, OMEGA Centre, Bartlett School of Planning, UCL
Secondary supervisor  Dr. John Ward, OMEGA Centre, Bartlett School of Planning, UCL
Starting date  November 2016
Project completion date  December 2021
Mega-transport projects (MTPs) should be planned and appraised considering project management variables as success measures, but also accepting complexity and non-linearity, addressing the power of context and the influence of the participating stakeholders, understanding there are other success criteria used in the decision-making process. This is crucial to plan and appraise “successful” projects.

However, in Latin America, the challenge is that a “closed systems” approach to decision-making is formally requested by central governments at the planning and appraisal stages of MTPs, considering project and economic efficiency as measures of success. When dealing with the selection (among options) of the project and when deciding objectives and goals to be adopted, an “open systems” approach to decision-making is more consistent with the nature of MTPs.

In this context, it is reasonable to state that there may be different institutional elements (cultural-cognitive, normative and regulative) that could be promoting a ‘closed systems’ approach to decision-making when planning and appraising megaprojects in Latin America. This research is concentrated on analysing a specific part of the regulative elements, and uses a New Institutional Economics approach to thoroughly analyse this topic.

This research examines the relationship between the planning, appraisal and procurement/delivery stages of MTP decision-making. It pays special attention to the contribution of the formal institutional environment surrounding such decision-making when contracting and executing such megaprojects, in the pre-selection of a closed system approach to decision-making at the planning and appraisal stages. Using a mixed methods research design, focused on a multiple case study, this thesis: identifies the contribution of the different risk factors to the general risk of obtaining the expected results; analyses how these risk factors are related to contractual hazards; and explores if governmental decision-makers perceive an ‘open-systems’ approach to decision-making at the planning and appraisal stages would impact on contractual hazards.

Marco Dean

Primary supervisor Prof. Harry T. Dimitriou, OMEGA Centre, Bartlett School of Planning, UCL
Secondary supervisor Dr. John Ward, OMEGA Centre, Bartlett School of Planning, UCL

ESPRC Case Award, EIB STRABEI Award & OMEGA Centre, UCL

Starting date 2013
Project completion date 2017

The PhD Programme of Marco Dean focuses on ‘The Applicability of Multi-Criteria Analysis to the Appraisal of Mega Infrastructure Seaport Projects in Major Port Cities’. The research is based on the working hypothesis that mega infrastructure projects produce impacts that go far beyond that infrastructure that is being delivered. Consequently the employment of conventional appraisal framework to the assessment of such projects may turn out to be insufficient to capture completely their multiple and far-reaching implications.

The PhD Programme also entails cooperation with the European Investment Bank (EIB) throughout the first year of the PhD. This partnership is conceived within the STAges de REcherche BEI-EIB (STAREBEI) Research Programme, namely an EIB–Universities Research Action Programme. It is intended that the main findings obtained from the research undertaken under the STAREBEI Programme will contribute to the enhanced appreciation by the EIB of the employment of a multi-criteria analysis to the appraisal of large-scale capital investments in seaport infrastructure where a broader perspective can better highlight risks and opportunities of proposed investments. On the other hand, these findings will simultaneously form a critical input for research questions of the PhD.

Daniel Durrant

Primary supervisor Prof. Harry T. Dimitriou, OMEGA Centre, Bartlett School of Planning, UCL
Secondary supervisor Prof. Mike Raco, Bartlett School of Planning, UCL
Sponsor EPSRC & OMEGA Centre, Bartlett School of Planning, UCL
Starting date  September 2011
Project completion date June 2015
There has been concern at the way in which megaproject governance and decision-making in these major undertakings occurs within a ‘democracy deficit’ in which decisions are perceived by some as lacking the legitimacy that comes from engaging in an open democratic process. Costs and benefits are often opaque and the tools for assessing them prone to distortion.With politicians and civil servants prone to capture by private interests one solution suggested has been a greater involvement of civil society in decision-making on megaprojects.The specific allegations levelled at megaproject governance are considered in the context of late modernity characterised by declining trust in the institutions of either state or market to deliver outcomes that meet the needs of a broad public. This scepticism extends to modernity itself and the visions of modernity embodied within the design of megaprojects and mega transport projects (MTPs) in particular. In a context where people living in late modern societies are increasingly sceptical of the benefits offered by MTPs and are often unwilling to bear the costs my research concerns the way in which; both the history of poor performance in megaproject governance and specific failings in the case of HS2 contribute to a wider loss of faith in decision-making.My research asks; how are MTPs legitimated, developing the concept of civil society as a source of the legitimacy that state and market institutions often lack and as a feature of the controversies associated with the governance, planning and implementation of MTPs. It is conceived as a political realm in which there are challenges to the decisions of state and market institutions and in which there is public deliberation of the issues generated. Yet it is becoming more than this with civil society organisations (CSOs) increasingly seen by policy makers as delivering public policy. This contributes a broader concept of civil society and the role of CSOs to the literature on megaprojects and MTPs in which one can see calls for more open forms of decision-making.The planning and appraisal of HS2, a proposed UK high speed rail connection, are taken as a case study of the role played by CSOs in contemporary MTP governance. The history of the project and the governing principles of speed, both of operation and implementation are identified and then confirmed through the analysis of the policy discourse. The public formed of CSOs responding to decisions surrounding HS2 is also identified as are the ways in which organisations seek to challenge the principles of the project and develop alternative policy proposals. The findings are that the approach to planning and appraisal has remained largely closed to civil society. The practices of the delivery bodies, in seeking to implement the project as quickly as possible, have generated considerable mistrust. This calls into question claims that MTPs conceived and implemented to meet the needs of narrow business interests and global competitiveness can claim to be acting in the public interest

Delrieu Varina

Primary supervisor Prof. Michael J. Batty, CASA, The Bartlett, UCL
Secondary supervisor Prof. Harry T. Dimitriou, OMEGA Centre, Bartlett School of Planning, UCL
Sponsor OMEGA Centre, UCL and Volvo Research & Education Foundations, South East England Development Agency
Starting date  September 2006
Project completion date February 2012
Current appraisal methods for planning and implementing MUTPs are relatively short on a standardised framework for assessing and monitoring the social impacts that communities under-go. This PhD research proposes that GIS can provide a fast and powerful overview of social patterns that can assist planners and decision-makers at local, regional and national levels to consider the ‘knock-on’ effects of the MUTP. This contributes towards understanding how to shape change in those communities to improve the socio-economic status for the whole population, beyond the users of the MUTP.The research also proposes the use of the Cynefin decision-making model with which to assess, act and respond to these impacts and to manage the outcomes so as to amplify the positive effects and dampen the negative.The case-studies are the two non-London hubs of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link; Ebbsfleet and Ashford, Kent.Building from the 1991 census to the most recent digital datasets the toolkit creates ‘planning-to-implementation’ stage profiles of the communities. Variables that are mapped include demographic diversity, socio-economic deprivation, accessibility, journey to work modes, and a pilot study to explore the impact of the MUTP upon changes in social exclusion and community cohesion.

Yen Ning Tseng

Primary supervisor Prof. Harry T. Dimitriou, OMEGA Centre, Bartlett School of Planning, UCL
Secondary supervisor Prof. Mike J. Batty, CASA, The Bartlett, UCL
Sponsor OMEGA Centre, UCL and Volvo Research & Education Foundations (VREF)
Starting date  September 2005
Project completion date  January 2012
This thesis focuses on identifying inter-relationships between three different types of mega projects, including mega urban transport projects (MUTPs), sustainable urban regeneration schemes and mega events, such as the Olympics. This research attempts to test the hypothesis that ‘MUTPs can be an effective agent for sustainable urban regeneration and mega events’. It further assumes that ‘A well-functioning co-operation within this cluster of mega project can bring about a favourable outcome, i.e. maximum benefits and minimum costs’. The premise of the research discussed is that an appreciation of institutional arrangements and power relationships is vital in understanding the nature of complexity in decision-making regarding MUTP planning and delivery, and their associated developments. The methodology outlined is essentially a two-strand approach applied for purposes of illustration to a case study (the Channel Tunnel Rail Link). Strand one of the methodology is pre-hypothesis led – based on an analysis of the narrative, whilst the other is hypothesis led – based on an analysis of the returns to conventional interview questionnaires. This methodology of case study is designed to answer the primary research questions, which are: (a) Can MUTPs play an effective role in delivering sustainable urban regeneration and mega events? (b) Can MUTPs, sustainable urban regeneration, and mega events be implemented in parallel? And if so, (C) in which contexts these three domains can co-operate well and contribute to the visions of sustainable development?This study concludes that conditions which allow one to coordinate the delivery of these three different types of mega projects include having a proactive partnership between the public and private sectors, a brokerage role played by local authorities, visionary politicians, streamlined planning powers, good stakeholder management, and continuous political commitment. Moreover, the locomotive role played by the MUTP which enables the urban regeneration schemes and mega events to happen could not implement without existing brownfield sites and the injection of significant public investments. In addition, the coalition of interests that forms itself around these projects is a leading dimension of these major developments. This coalition is mostly constituted by elite groups. It is also suggested that the coordination between these major projects remains rhetoric which is achieved by the interdependency between project discourses.