Valuation and Appraisal of Accessibility in Rail (VAAR): an appraisal framework for improvements in accessibility for all

Economic appraisal is increasingly important to choose and justify transport investments. However, current appraisal methods are very limited to inform decision-making in relation to investments that improve access to transport for all (OECD/ITF, 2017; Casullo et al., 2017). While legal and ethical reasons are often used to justify this kind of projects and policies – primarily targeted at disabled and elderly people –, many have argued that currently, limited appraisal frameworks can be a significant barrier for investments in providing inclusive transport systems (Martens, 2018; Maynard, 2007; OECD/ITF, 2017).

In the UK, the need for better appraisal tools in this area was earlier identified by the House of Commons Transport Committee (2013). Because current transport appraisal frameworks are not fit for purpose for this type of accessibility interventions, this leads to very limited incorporation of their impacts into value-for-money estimates of projects. In this context, appraisal systems can bias investment decisions towards other projects that can more easily demonstrate good value for money.

This work aims at enhancing the appraisal of accessibility improvements by developing an appraisal framework compatible with standard transport appraisal frameworks worldwide. To be precise, noting that accessibility is a very broad term that can take multiple definitions, here we use the term ‘accessibility’ to refer to the access to the transport network, in the context of seeking inclusive transport for all through reducing or removing design barriers to access. The framework aims to enable and underpin the development of appraisal guidelines that assist the selection and justification of accessibility investments.

Our research addresses two important gaps in the literature:

  1. the lack of a microeconomic conceptual framework which is fit-for-purpose not only for generic transport interventions but also for accessibility improvements impacting on minority groups, bringing together the relevant efficiency and social justice considerations;
  2. the lack of a generic and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis (CBA) framework for accessibility interventions, which builds upon the microeconomic foundation in line with the rest of the transport CBA apparatus.

These two gaps are closely interrelated, but each has its own subtleties. Addressing them both is what enables us to develop a framework that is theoretically sound and amenable to operationalisation for use in conjunction with the rest of the transport appraisal apparatus. The applicability of the framework is demonstrated by providing specific recommendations for improvements of the UK appraisal guidelines (TAG).


Valuation and Appraisal of Accessibility in Rail (VAAR): an appraisal framework for improvements in accessibility for all - Final Report


RSSB-ITS Rail Economics Research Partnership