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One-sided view on Public transport


When solving problems in the public transport sector, the standpoint taken is often too one-sided. These types of problems need an interdisciplinary approach. This is the conclusion of Wijnand Veeneman, who will defend his thesis at TU Delft on Monday 24 June. He researched four different cases in Switzerland, the UK, Denmark and the Netherlands. Veeneman: “An integral, gradual approach is needed.”

Scientists have many useful ideas about better public transport. Veeneman: “The content of these ideas is very dependant on the scientist’s discipline. An economist will point out the necessary competition between the various transport companies, while the traffic specialist will say that cooperation is a necessity.” According to Veeneman, the specialists posses a wealth of knowledge, but tend to cling to their professional preferences. For this reason they are not always open to insights from other disciplines. Veeneman pleads for a multidisciplinary approach. However, the question remains: how do you actually approach the problem?

In his thesis, Veeneman goes on to plead for a gradual approach. “It is important not to disrupt the balance in a system too much. What it is really about is the policy makers’ ability to apply integral thinking, to be able to bridge the gap between theory and practice: ‘mind the gap’.”

In Newcastle - where there is a lot of competition in this sector - for example, there is a problem with the maintenance of a number of socially important lines. “If you let the government pay for this, then you disrupt the competition and it’s healthy effect on the market,” says Veeneman. Still it seems possible to combine several disciplines by using a gradual approach.

During his research, Veeneman discovered that many civil servants and transport managers think in terms of mono-disciplinary organisational forms with clear promises regarding the resolution of large problems. Veeneman: “In reality however, they are busy solving smaller problems. It is these small problems that policy makers must learn to include in a bigger picture. That is one of the points in my proposition.” In the thesis he develops a gradual plan, a guideline for approaching multidisciplinary problems.
In a complex world such as developing and offering public transport services, there is no single correct theoretical stencil for an organisational form. Veeneman: “Someone claiming to have found THE solution can therefore not be trusted.”

Maarten van der Sanden | alfa
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