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Modelling the productivity impacts of inter-city connectivity

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  • Full or part time
    Dr J Laird
    Prof S Shepherd
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The policy context is one in which inter-city connectivity is seen as an important stimulus to regional productivity. The Northern Powerhouse, for example, sees improved city connectivity as a means of creating economic growth. Part of this growth will be through the growth in clusters of economic activity – i.e. increased specialisation at a city level. The economic literature identifies that transport can increase productivity through both increasing economic mass (agglomeration impacts) and through increased specialisation by cities. Increased specialisation occurs at an industry level, but also increasingly at a task level. This increase in productivity through increased specialisation is likely to be additional to transport user benefits calculated in a cost-benefit analysis. To date the treatment of agglomeration impacts have been well addressed in the literature. However the productivity impacts of inter-city connectivity have not been looked beyond an initial identification of the issues (see e.g. Venables (2013)). This problem is more than academic and so this research is sponsored jointly with Arup which gives the student a chance see the real world issues involved when modelling large transport projects and includes a 3 month placement in their office.

The aim of the research therefore is:

• To develop an economic framework in which the impact of improved inter-city connectivity on productivity can be estimated;
• To develop a dynamic model of inter-city transport and economic movement including city specialisation, from first principles using a system dynamics approach
• To identify the level of additionality to transport user benefits in a cost benefit analysis that increased productivity through city specialisation will have from a theoretical perspective.
• To apply the model and new techniques to a relevant case study in the North of England

Industry partnership:

In addition to access to the research and training facilities at the Institute for Transport Studies, the student will have the opportunity to work in close collaboration with Arup including a 3 month placement at their offices (travel and accommodation expenses will be reimbursed). The student will therefore get valuable insights on issues associated with the hands on application of the research, which is generally a rare opportunity for a PhD student.

Further information: Full details of the Industrial CASE scheme are available on the EPSRC web site

Entry requirements: The minimum requirement is a UK Upper Second Class Honours or equivalent in a Quantitative Discipline.
Desired skills:
• Economics
• Strong numerical aptitude
• A strong interest in transport and preferably some related qualification or experience
• Some experience in computer programming is desirable though not essential

How to Apply for an EPSRC iCASE PhD Studentship at Leeds:

Anyone wishing to be considered for this scholarship must complete the University of Leeds online application and select the PhD programme ‘Transport Studies (Business and Economics)’. Guidance can be found here: Under funding please state that you wish to be considered for the EPSRC iCASE project ‘Modelling the productivity impacts of inter-city connectivity’. You must include a research statement of motivation and a small proposal of your own ideas.

Funding Notes

Full funding is available for UK students. Other EU applicants are generally eligible for a fees-only award, unless they have been resident in the UK for the three years before starting their PhD. Further details of the residency requirements can be found here:

Full awards will cover UK/EU academic fees and a maintenance grant paid at standard Research Council rates (£14,057 tax free in Session 2015/16) plus an additional £3,000 together with other allowances if appropriate (full-time study only).


Lafourcade, M. & Thisse, J-F (2011) New economic geography: the role of transport costs. In de Palma et al. (2011) A Handbook of Transport Economics, Chapter 4, 67-96

Rosewell, B. and Venables, A.J. (2014) High Speed Rail, Transport Investment and Economic Impact. Report to HS2 Ltd. Report dated April 2014

Shepherd, S.P. (2014) A review of system dynamics models applied in transportation. Transportmetrica B: Transport Dynamics, 2014.

Shepherd, S.P. and Balijepalli (2015) A game of two cities: A toll setting game with experimental results. Transport Policy 38 (2015) 95–109.

Venables, A. J. (2007). Evaluating urban transport improvements: cost-benefit analysis in the presence of agglomeration and income taxation. Journal of Transport Economics and Policy, 173-188

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