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Name of Member: Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds
Acronym: UOL ITS
Telephone: 0044(0)1133436654
Address: Institute for Transport Studies (ITS) Lifton Villas,
1-3 Lifton Place
University of Leeds
Leeds LS2 9JT
United Kingdom

The Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds (ITS Leeds) is an inter-disciplinary research centre comprising engineers, economists, psychologists, mathematicians, sociologists and geographers working on multi-disciplinary problems associated with transport. ITS Leeds comprises 57 staff (45 FTE) and 45 PGR students. ITS Leeds also has joint appointments with the Leeds University Business School, School of Civil Engineering, Centre for Integrated Energy Research and Leeds Institute for Health Sciences, addressing broader cross-disciplinary agendas such as socio-technical interaction, mobility and health, transport and sustainability, safety and security, and resilient infrastructure. Through the cross-University and industry-facing Transport Systems Hub, which is directed by ITS Leeds, we also link to a broader network of industry partners and stakeholders, relationships which are in some cases formalised through memoranda of understanding and/or strategic partnership.

The Institute’s standing as a centre of sustained excellence was recognised through the award a 2009 Queen’s Anniversary Prize in recognition of ‘sustained excellence: 40 years impact in transport research and teaching’.

The Institute for Transport Studies (ITS) and the School of Civil Engineering (SCE) at Leeds have current and/or recent research activity in the following areas relevant to rail:

  • Valuing qualitative aspects of rail, and forecasting passenger rail demand (ITS)
  • Modelling railway costs and efficiency, and railway marginal damage and cost estimation for track access regimes (ITS)
  • Pricing railway journeys (ITS)
  • Rail freight & logistics (ITS)
  • Punctuality and reliability (ITS)
  • Network modelling & simulation (ITS)
  • Human factors (ITS)
  • Passenger information and smart data (ITS)
  • Procurement route mapping and audit (SCE)
  • Structural health monitoring (SCE)
  • Structural testing and standards (SCE)
  • Infrastructure resilience (SCE)
  • Flood risk assessment (SCE)

For more recent activities follow the link.


Examples of the impacts of our recent research on railway policy, planning, and practices include the following:

  • The UK Department for Transport’s WebTAG appraisal guidelines have for many years specified monetary valuations of travel time savings and noise directly from ITS Leeds research. A recent application of these valuations has been to the economic case for High Speed 2.
  • ITS Leeds work on understanding the causes of trends in rail travel has underpinned the recommended elasticities to GDP in the 2002, 2005, 2009 and 2013 versions of the Passenger Demand Forecasting Handbook (PDFH). The latest update of PDFH in 2013 also uses generalised journey time (GJT) elasticities from our work. These GJT elasticities entail a significant departure from previous values, impacting upon demand forecasts of changes to not only journey time, service frequency and through-train provision, but also to other elasticities derived from the GJT elasticities, such as crowding, reliability, accessibility to stations and rolling stock.
  • A recent ITS Leeds review commissioned by the Passenger Demand Forecasting Council (PDFC) and the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has led to major changes in the parameters used to forecast changes in reliability; these updated parameters have been implemented within ORR’s 2013 update to Schedule 8.
  • ITS Leeds has worked closely with ORR since 2005 to develop new datasets and methodologies for assessing the relative efficiency performance of Network Rail against its international peers. This research was used as the main piece of evidence in the 2008 Periodic Review (and also the McNulty study) and the work is ongoing via two staff secondments at ORR. The recent development work is intended to ensure that new approaches are in place for future periodic reviews, and was also used alongside other approaches in the 2013 Periodic Review.
  • ITS Leeds research to develop new methods and evidence on the wear-and-tear-associated marginal cost of vehicles running on rail networks in Europe was used directly to inform the European Commission’s infringement procedures against 24 Member States. It was also used to inform the recasting of market access legislation.
  • ITS Leeds works closely on a number of projects with the School of Civil Engineering (SCE). SCE has been actively involved with Infrastructure UK (IUK) in the development of the „Infrastructure Procurement Routemap”, to support infrastructure providers in optimising the delivery environment. This is part of IUK’s Implementation Plan which has identified measures to be taken by government and industry to realise projected savings of £2-3bn per annum. Application of the Routemap on projects such as Crossrail, the Environment Agency’s Thames Estuary Project, HS2, London Underground’s Station Stabilisation Programme and Anglian Water’s AMP6 infrastructure investment strategy have demonstrated the potential for significant improvement and savings. The NAO and the Cabinet Office recognise the Routemap as good practice and it is expected to be adopted on all major infrastructure projects in the future.

Recent / ongoing rail projects:

  • Rail Value of Time Study (with Arups). Department for Transport. 2014-2015
  • Designing steel composition and microstructure to better resist degradation during wheel-rail contact (project awarded in 2015). EPSRC.
  • Rail marginal cost estimation (working with Ecoplan and STRATEC). SNC 2015-2016.
  • Rail open access competition study. Competition and Markets Authority. 2015
  • Needs Tailored Interoperable Railway (NeTIRAIL-INFRA). EU Funded – Horizon 2020 (awarded 2015).
  • Estimating the relative cost of damage mechanisms on rail infrastructure: combining economic and engineering approaches, EU funded, SUSTRAIL (2012 to 2015).
  • Review of Track Access charges (2014-2015): (with STRATEC for the Belgian Ministry of Transport).
  • Economic Incentives for Innovation (Feasibility Study under the “Half Cost Train” Initiative), Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB); 2013-2014.