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The assessment and management of social impacts in urban transport infrastructure projects: exploring relationships between urban governance, project management and impact assessment practices in different geographical contexts

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posted on 2023-02-15, 02:14 authored by Lara Katharine Mottee

Practices in the assessment and management of social impacts play an important role in the ongoing development of urban transport infrastructure megaprojects. Social Impact Assessment (SIA) is an internationally recognised process used to predict, assess and manage impacts aimed at securing an equitable distribution of social benefits and costs. However, practitioners applying SIA face significant challenges in balancing strategic policy objectives and specific project aims. The pilot study for this research suggested practitioners have limited influence on long-term social outcomes as their involvement is constrained by political decision-making and planning approval processes.

Using a qualitative analysis of three rail infrastructure megaprojects from two urban geographical contexts, Sydney Australia and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, this research investigated what constrains and influences assessment and management of social impacts. It considered relationships between urban geographical context and real-world practices of Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) and management in these cases. It asks what lessons might be drawn to improve social outcomes in the future. Primary research methods included document analysis, field observations, semi-structured interviews and international focus groups with practitioners, professionals and academics. Findings are documented as a set of publications.

The thesis argues that over-emphasis of technical (financial and engineering) aspects during urban and transport planning risks decision-makers undervaluing social impacts. Public interest issues identified through public consultation and by practitioners are often overlooked in project lifecycles due to poor integration of urban governance and project management processes. It argues the implementation of good practice SIA, Follow-up, and the management of impacts, is constrained by a tension between governance priorities at multiple spatial scales. The findings suggest that adaptive management and governance to respond to social change arising from megaprojects over time is essential. The thesis concludes that practice must be supported by effective integration of impact assessments with project management, urban governance and planning to improve social outcomes from transport infrastructure megaprojects.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction: Transport Infrastructure Projects and Urban Context -- Chapter 2. Follow-up and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) in Urban Transport Infrastructure Projects: Insights from the Parramatta Rail Link -- Chapter 3. Limitations of Technical Approaches to Transport Planning Practice in Two Cases: Social Issues as a Critical Component of Urban Projects -- Chapter 4. Metro Infrastructure Planning in Amsterdam: How are Social Issues Managed in the Absence of Environmental and Social Impact Assessment? -- Chapter 5. Reflecting on How Social Impacts Are Considered in Transport Infrastructure Project Planning: Looking Beyond the Claimed Success of Sydney’s South West Rail Link -- Chapter 6. Advancing Beyond Project-Scale Social Impact Assessment of Transport Infrastructure: Insights Into Contextual Constraints on Practice -- Chapter 7. Conclusion: Improving Social Outcomes from Urban Transport Infrastructure Projects -- Appendices


Supervised under cotutelle agreement with the University of Groningen Additional Supervisor 3: Fiona Miller

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University ; University of Groningen

Degree Type

Thesis PhD

Department, Centre or School

Department of Geography and Planning

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Frank Vanclay

Additional Supervisor 1

Richard Howitt

Additional Supervisor 2

Jos Arts


Copyright: Lara Katharine Mottee Copyright disclaimer:




Australia Netherlands


252 pages

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