Professor of Transport Geography, Plymouth University

My research mainly focuses upon the geographical implications of mobility / accessibility, and issues to do with transport and governance. Together with colleagues at Erfurt University of Applied Sciences in Germany, I'm currently finishing off a project on Transport Needs in an Ageing Society - the so-called 'TRACY' project (all European Union-funded projects have increasingly jaunty and progressively tangential acronyms).

In my career I've been involved in research into all manner of things to do with transport, travel and mobility. I started out in the 1990s with a project on the privatisation of British Rail, in which I got to interview key politicians and civil servants involved with the controversial policy. 'Getting my hands dirty' in research terms has always been one of my favourite aspects of my job, but sadly as I have become more senior (both in years and professionally) I have found that opportunities to actually go out and do my own research have become fewer and further between. In an attempt to put this right, together with Iain Docherty (Glasgow) and Danny MacKinnon (Newcastle) I embarked upon a project about the impact of devolution on UK transport policy in which we deliberately involved no research assistance 'in the field'; getting to interview the main protagonists in this area was fascinating and we wrote up the results as a book for Elsevier Science, Diverging Mobilities.

One of the other aims of the devolution project was to bring together two usually completely separate areas of literature, namely those of political geography and transport geography. In my latest book with Iain Docherty (The Transport Debate, published by Policy Press) I've sought to do this again, this time attempting to pull together the work of transport geographers and transport studies specialists with that written by scholars working in sociologically-inspired the 'new mobilities paradigm'.

A common thread to my work has been transport policy - its impacts, complexities and appropriateness and, in British terms at least, the extent to which it is fit for purpose. I have recently been able to play a small part in influencing transport policy of late thanks to a partnership with Andrew Seedhouse of South West Smart Applications Ltd, where we've obtained more than £4m of government funding to help put our (or, I suppose, the government's) money where our mouth is. For years in my work I have been advocating various improvements to the UK transport system, and one of these is the nationwide introduction of 'smart' ticketing as a means of making public transport more appealing (users of the Oystercard will know what I am talking about). This is difficult in provincial Britain because of the structure of our transport industry, but thanks to Andrew and his team we are making progress: almost all the buses in the South West England (with the notable exception of those run in certain places by one operator) have been equipped with ticket machines compatible with smart ticketing, and a (very) slowly increasing number of smart ticketing options is starting to appear.

Experience

  • –present
    Professor of Transport Geography, Plymouth University