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
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.