The Wider Economic Benefits of Transport
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The Wider Economic Benefits of Transport

Macro-, Meso- and Micro-Economic Transport Planning and Investment Tools

The standard cost-benefit analysis of transport infrastructure investment projects weighs a project’s costs against users’ benefits. This approach has been challenged on the grounds that it ignores wider economic impacts of such projects. At this International Transport Forum Round Table, leading academics and practitioners addressed these concerns and examined a range of potential approaches for evaluating wider impacts – negative as well as positive. They concluded that for smaller projects, it is better to focus on timely availability of results, even if this means forgoing sophisticated analysis of wider impacts. For larger projects or investment programs, customized analysis of these effects is more easily justifiable. Creating consistent appraisal procedures is a research priority.
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This paper summarizes and organizes presentations and discussions of the Round Table on Macro-, Meso and Micro Infrastructure Planning and Assessment Tools, which took place at Boston University, on 25 and 26 October 2007. The goal of the meeting was to investigate how recent research on direct and wider economic impacts of investment in transport infrastructure can be used to improve the practice of transport project appraisal. While the potential importance of "wider benefits" is clear, it is less obvious that attempts to quantify them should be part of all project appraisals. Timely availability of results of simpler approaches might improve the quality of decision-making just as much. And when wider impacts are part of the appraisal, their quantification should follow consistent procedures. Policy-oriented research should focus on these procedures, not on producing general results, as the latter are thought to be irrelevant to policy, to the extent they exist.
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