Shaping Policy, Strategic Planning, and Investment in Transport at City, Regional and National Levels

Submitting Institution

University of Glasgow

Unit of Assessment

Business and Management Studies

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Political Science, Sociology

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Summary of the impact

University of Glasgow research into public sector governance has influenced planning and investment in major transport and infrastructure projects. Transport Scotland's Strategic Transport Projects Review was the first nationwide, multi-modal, evidence based review of Scotland's transport system; as a member of the Board, Professor Iain Docherty contributed to its recommendations, adopted by the Scottish Government in December 2008. His research also shaped the Commission for Integrated Transport's negotiations with the Westminster Government on the White Paper which underpinned the Planning Bill 2008 and subsequent Planning Act 2009; informed the Cabinet Office's 2009 Urban Transport strategy and recommendations; and influenced 2012 investment planning discussions by Edinburgh City Council.

Underpinning research

Professor Iain Docherty, Professor of Public Policy and Governance (University of Glasgow since 1999) researches how the changing institutions, processes and cultures of public sector management deliver different policy outcomes and what the implications of these choices are for the economy, the environment and social wellbeing. Docherty's work is concerned, in particular, with the development and implementation of strategic planning and transport policies in the UK and Scotland. Over the period 2001-2011, he undertook a programme of policy analysis research that shed light on the mismatch between stated intentions of policy and actual investment and government spending decisions.

Docherty has worked collaboratively over this period with fellow academics Mackinnon (University of Glasgow, 2009-13), Shaw (Professor, University of Plymouth) and Mackie (Professor, University of Leeds). Docherty's distinctive intellectual contribution to the work stems from his research expertise in public sector administration, which complements his fellow researchers' backgrounds in geography and economics. In particular, Docherty has made important theoretical contributions in areas such as multi-level governance and the unfolding of devolution, the impact of governance structures on policy outcomes, and the political economy of public investment decisions.

Over the period, Docherty's research has analysed how systems for strategic policy formulation feed through into adopted government policies and industry responses. He explored how the gaps between stated strategies and targets and actual outcomes might be closed. A key strand running through Docherty's research has been the argument for a stronger focus on sustainable transport policies, with empirical analysis and findings demonstrating the failings of the UK Government to implement such policies in the past.

The research published in Area in 2001, for example, provided the first academic critique of the 1997 Government's transport policy as set out in its formal Green and White papers, and ultimately its policy decisions. This and subsequent research, including Docherty and Shaw (2008) and (2011) examined how political and administrative processes of transport policy formulation and implementation shaped policy priorities and the extent to which declared policy goals were achieved. This research has been extended to further examine how policy development and implementation has unfolded in each of the UK's devolved administrations. MacKinnon, D., Shaw, J. and Docherty, I (2008) and Shaw, J., Mackinnon, D. and Docherty, I. (2009) both report the outcomes of detailed empirical research, with Diverging Mobilities?(2008) constituting one of the first major works on the impact of devolution on any aspect of public policy.

References to the research

1. Docherty, I. and Shaw, J. (2011) "The Transformation of Transport Policy in Great Britain? `New Realism' and New Labour's decade of displacement activity", Environment and Planning A 43(1) 224-251. (doi:10.1068/a43184) [journal operates rigorous peer-review]. [REF2]


2. Docherty, I. and Mackie, P. (2010) "Planning for transport in the wake of Stern and Eddington", Regional Studies 44(8) 1085-1096. (doi:10.1080/00343400902736550) [Regional Studies is a leading international journal in theoretical development, empirical analysis and policy debate in the multi- and inter-disciplinary field of regional studies which operates rigorous peer-review].[REF2]


3. Shaw, J., Mackinnon, D. and Docherty, I. (2009) "Divergence or convergence? Devolution and transport policy in the United Kingdom", Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 27(3) 546-567. (doi:10.1068/c0899r) [Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy is a research-driven, fully refereed international journal which seeks to advance scholarly debates on a wide range of contemporary policy issues which sit at the interface between the economy, society, and the environment].[REF2]


4. Docherty, I. and Shaw, J. (eds) (2008) Traffic Jam — 10 years of `sustainable' transport in the UK, Policy Press, Bristol. ISBN 978-1847420725/32. [Available from HEI]

5. MacKinnon, D., Shaw, J. and Docherty, I. (2008) Diverging Mobilities? Devolution, Power and Transport Policy in the UK, Elsevier, Oxford. ISBN: 978-0-08-045354-5. [Available from HEI]

6. Docherty, I. (2001) "Interrogating the 10 year transport plan", Area 33(3) 321-328. (doi:10.1111/1475-4762.00035) [Area publishes ground breaking geographical research and scholarship across the field of geography].


Details of the impact

Docherty's research has had an impact on transport policy across several jurisdictions. This impact arose from his sustained engagement with policy makers, as detailed below.

Rail Devolution: Foundation for Impact
Rail devolution was the biggest transfer of power to Scotland from Westminster since 1999, giving powers to Scottish Ministers to specify what the rail industry should deliver in Scotland. The Scottish Parliament proposed the Transport (Scotland) Bill in 2004 to incorporate these additional devolved powers. On the basis of his research expertise, Docherty acted as Special Adviser to the Scottish Parliament's Transport and Local Government Committee on the Transport (Scotland) Bill, providing extensive oral evidence to the Committee on 21 December 2004 [1]. During that meeting, Docherty advised the Committee on several issues raised by the Bill. In particular, Docherty advised the Committee that the level of powers attributed to the Regional Transport Partnerships (RTPs) which were to be established under the Bill might not be strong enough to enable them to make a difference to the delivery of transport policy throughout Scotland. Drawing from his research based knowledge, Docherty advised the Committee about arrangements for equivalent organisations in England, explaining that `not only is funding proportionate to the size of the councils, but representation is proportionate, too, and there is a requirement on organisations to try to reflect the politically partisan as well as the geographical nature of the areas that they cover' [1].

The final report by the Transport and Local Government Committee cites Docherty's evidence on 12 occasions and draws on his insights on these matters to recommend that greater powers for RTPs be investigated as well as a greater level of proportionality in the size, political representation and funding for such organisations be considered by Ministers as the Bill progressed [2]. During its second stage of passage through the Scottish Parliament, amendments were made to the Bill, in order to address the Committee's concerns, including those about political representation in RTPs; the Bill was subsequently enacted in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2005.

The impact of the transfer of powers under rail devolution has extended well beyond the initial introduction of the new legislation. Docherty's research based expertise has continued to contribute to ongoing developments in transport policy and planning since 2008, which have only been possible due to rail devolution.

In recognition of his research expertise, Docherty was appointed as one of two non-executive Directors of Transport Scotland, serving in this role until 2010. Commenting on Docherty's appointment, the Chief Executive of Transport Scotland noted that his skills and knowledge would `benefit not only the Agency but also the businesses and communities of Scotland that were dependent on its trunk road and railway networks' [3]. Over the course of his appointment, Docherty drew from his research to shape and influence Transport Scotland's major transport plans, policies and strategies [4]. A key example from this period is the Strategic Transport Projects Review.

Strategic Transport Projects Review, 2008
Transport Scotland's Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR) was the first nationwide, multi-modal, evidence based review of Scotland's transport system. Launching the STPR on 10 December 2008, Transport Minister, Stewart Stevenson MSP, noted that it was Scotland's largest and most ambitious Transport Plan. The STPR recommended a programme of interventions that included new infrastructure projects, better incentives for sustainable travel and more carefully targeted investment across the country.

Docherty was appointed as a member of the STPR Board, which was responsible for approving the finalised STPR plan sent to Scottish Ministers in 2009. Docherty made specific contributions based on his research on processes of transport policy formulation and the politics of public investment decisions to the following proposals:

  • The adoption of the strategic transport service objective for the £1bn Replacement Forth Crossing project, to maintain cross-Forth transport links for all modes to at least the level of service offered in 2006;
  • The adoption of the primary strategic objective for the Edinburgh transport improvement package to maintain the 60-minute commutable labour market area at the current level, with a particular focus on linking areas of economic activity [4].

The STPR identified 29 major transport investment priorities across Scotland involving a multi-billion pound spend by the Scottish Government over 20 years. Key projects identified by Transport Scotland in STPR were prioritised by Scottish Ministers, with the Replacement Forth Bridge Crossing scheme proving a core focus of investment and change. The Forth Replacement Crossing is Scotland's biggest infrastructure project in a generation, with the transformation to the Forth Bridge Crossing underway and due to be completed in 2016. The Scottish Government recognised the significance of this STPR recommendation by committing to enact legislation, bringing the Forth Road Bridge Act 2013 into force in March 2013.

In June 2013, Audit Scotland estimated that £7.5bn investment had been committed by the Scottish Government to five of the main projects recommended in the STPR, including the Forth Replacement Crossing, over the next 30 years.

Urban Transport , Cabinet Office, 2009
Drawing on his transport appraisal and prioritisation research, Docherty provided evidence to the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit in 2009 to support its preparation of a report on urban transport and its contribution to the economy and quality of life. Docherty met with the Senior Civil Servant within the Strategy Unit to inform and review the report. The evidence presented in the Strategy Unit's review, to which Docherty contributed, suggested a growing need for government to define a long-term vision for urban transport which would rebalance its competing demands, allowing cities to:

  • enable mobility by promoting a wider choice of journey;
  • aim to reduce congestion and increase reliability, whilst promoting greater levels of walking and cycling; and
  • assist streets and public spaces to become more enjoyable places to be, where exposure to harmful emissions is reduced, and quality of life is transformed.

The final report, An Analysis of Urban Transport, was published by the Cabinet Office in December 2009, setting out recommendations to the Westminster Government, demonstrating Docherty's research contribution to strategic discussions and planning by policy makers and politicians at UK level.

Planning Act 2009
From 2004-2010, based on his established research expertise in transport policy, Docherty served as a member of the Commission for Integrated Transport's (CfIT) Academic panel. CfIT was an independent public body established to advise the Government on the implementation of integrated transport policy, monitor developments across transport, environment, health and other sectors and to review government progress towards meeting objectives. As part of his role Docherty prepared a synthesis of his work to inform the CfIT's response to the Government's 2007 White Paper on Planning for a Sustainable Future. The proposed legislation sought, among other things, to speed up the process for approving major new infrastructure projects, including airports, roads, and harbours.

Docherty's synthesised research [5] was discussed at the Commission's Plenary meeting of 19 July 2007 where the Commission noted that key issues he raised would inform the CfIT response to the White Paper [6]. The CfIT response [7] borrows directly from Docherty's paper where it discusses, for example, assumptions the White Paper makes about population, future demand for land, and housing which were directly taken from earlier government reviews. Following Docherty, the CfIT response argued for greater scrutiny, and sensitivity testing, before such assumptions could be used in national policy and planning. The CfIT response directly influenced the CfIT's input into the Planning Bill 2008 (subsequently Planning Act 2009).Docherty's research thus had an impact during the review period through the influence of the CfIT on this legislation [8].

City of Edinburgh Council 2012
Docherty's research-driven expertise on the development of urban and transport planning and policy has recently helped inform the City of Edinburgh Council's future development strategies and plans [9]. His research was used to make recommendations on how radical transport and related policies could revitalise Edinburgh's city centre, whilst ensuring the sustainable development of Edinburgh's infrastructure and making it an innovative and economically vibrant space. Docherty's engagement with Edinburgh City Council has also included a seminar presentation (22 February 2012) delivered to the members of the Council and the business community at an event focused on Restoring Edinburgh as a City for People.

Sources to corroborate the impact

1. Docherty's Oral Evidence to Transport and Local Government Committee December 2004 [Available from HEI]

2. Transport and Local Government Committee Report on the Transport Scotland Bill (Link)

3. Quote from news release re: appointment of Docherty as non-executive Director of Transport Scotland, (Link)

4. (Former) Chief Executive of Transport Scotland can attest to the impact of Docherty's research based contributions as a non-executive director from 2006-10 as well as his contributions to the STPR Board. [Contact Details Provided]

5. Professor Docherty Report to CfIT on Planning for a Sustainable Future, White Paper published May 2007 [Available from HEI]

6. Minutes of CfIT Plenary Meeting 19 July 2007 [Available from HEI]

7. CfIT response to the White Paper Planning for a Sustainable Future (Link)

8. Former Chair of the UK Commission for Integrated Transport can attest to the impact of Docherty's synthesised research paper on the Commission's work on the Planning Bill. [Contact Details Provided]

9. Head of Economic Planning, City of Edinburgh Council can attest to the impact of Docherty's presentation on the planning of improvements to the city centre [Contact Details Provided]