The key component of the Inception Phase of this project was the organisation of the Workshop, which had the purpose of reviewing the direction of social benefits research in transport. The Workshop was framed around discussion of 'think-piece' papers commissioned from eminent researchers in the field. Several clear messages came out of the workshop. These were:
Bring social assessment into all phases (macro, meso and micro) of road transport appraisal.
At all levels, establish whether the social consequences are synonymous with the poverty context - can the PRSP's be utilised to identify likely social consequences of transport sector policies and strategies?
The target audience for the research is national governments and donor agencies; the former should buy into the framework produced, and the latter should 'be servants of the government's they help'. It is essential that the framework addresses all audiences in the prioritisation process.
Many social benefits cannot be valued in money terms using current tools and techniques. The project should develop a framework that is flexible and allows for the need to combine both the monetised (which may be broadly classified as economic) and non-monetised (which may be broadly categorised as social) benefits into some rational system for appraisal.
The study (given its finite resources) should focus on rural appraisal (where the 'step changes' in travel demand arising from road investment are very apparent), while ensuring that the framework is flexible enough to encompass other scenarios (urban and peri-urban).
For the transport sector at least, if social costs and benefits can be incorporated into an existing and globally accepted model such as HDM-4, it will allow the model to be applied on low volume roads for which cost benefit analysis is inapplicable. It will also provide a mechanism for prioritising road investment to networks traditionally neglected by conventional appraisal methods.
To address these issues it is proposed that the fieldwork encompass three levels of enquiry (macro-meso-micro) in up to three case-study locations. The framework to be tested in the field (and used in conjunction with the HDM-4 model) will capture a more definitive index of social benefit indicators, based on a checklist that draws on the World Bank's poverty dimensions commonly used in the PRSP.
Framework for the inclusion of social benefits in transport planning: inception report. (2003)