HomeRails and urban development. A Comparative Approach between France and the United Kingdom

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Published on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 by Elsa Zotian


In France as in the United Kingdom, the issue of sustainable development along with preoccupations about energy costs are leading developers and urban planners to put rail transport at the centre of their concerns. Despite this similar context and though development in both countries has in general been strongly linked to rail, the relationships between urban development and rail transport seem to be quite different. France has seen a strong development of its tram networks since the beginning of the 1980s, whereas in Britain the revival of light rail systems has been more modest. On the other hand, the emergence of urban ‘railway star’ networks to service the peripheries of large cities has been more pronounced in Britain. Yet the role of major transport projects is a crucial issue in both countries in the metropolitan strategies of large urban areas like London and Paris. To comparatively explore the issue of railway transport and urban development the universities of Paris 1 Sorbonne and Liverpool are organising two linked seminars. The first of these will take place in Paris in May 2012, and consider the (re)development of LRT and tramway systems. The second seminar will be held in Liverpool in Autumn 2012 and address the issue of links between territorial development and railways.


First Seminar - Tramways in France and Great Britain (Paris, 10-11 May 2012)

Trams have made a remarkable comeback in France since the 1980s. In Britain, their return has been more modest in scale. How is this to be explained, given that both countries face the same demands concerning sustainable urban development? In France, tramways have become a symbol of a cultural mutation in urban development planning, which is perhaps less the case in Britain. The aim of this seminar is to look at the urban development policies in both countries. It asks whether this form of transport reflects different links which are emerging between industry and urban development, as well as local and central government. Comparisons of urban transport which are frequently made between France and Germany often suggest that France is “behind” in implementing policies of sustainable mobility. Does a comparison with Great Britain merely reflect similar time lags, or are two different urban development strategies being pursued?

Thursday 10 May

Session 1 (14:00-16:00): The return of the tram, turning point or point of no return?

  • Pierre-Henri Emangard (Université du Havre):  “A Geo-History of Tramways in Europe”
  • Mark Smith (Prifysgol Bangor / Bangor University), Olivier Sykes (University of Liverpool) and Thomas Fischer (University of Liverpool): “Why Have there been so Many Failures in the Return to Tramways in Great Britain? – lessons from the case of Merseytram”
  • Arnaud Passalacqua (Université Paris Diderot): “Surface Transports and Me­tropolitan Areas: Tramways and Other Types of Transport in Paris and London (1890-1950)”

Session 2 (16:30-18:30): Tramways as a Tool for Regenerating Towns and Districts in Decline

  • Xavier Desjardins (Université Paris 1): “Transport projects and urban regeneration: an introduction”
  • Antoine Plard (Urban Transport Organisation Authority, SITURV): “The case of Valenciennes tramway”
  • Stefan Vorberg (University of Paris 1): “Tramways in Eastern Germany since the 1990s”

Friday 11 May

Session 3 (9:00 - 12:00): Visits to tramways in Greater Paris

Session 4 (14:00-16:00): Evaluating the Utility of Tramway Projects: Comparative Constructions of Political and Technical Arguments

  • Thomas Fischer (University of Liverpool): “The A Priori Assessment of Urban Transport Projects in Great Britain and Germany”
  • Cyprien Richer et Sophie Hasiak (CETE Nord-Picardie), «Territorial opportunities of tram-based systems : comparative analysis between Nottingham (GB) and Va­lenciennes (FRA)»
  • Bryan Matthews (University of Leeds): “The Socio-Economic Assessment of Transport Projects”



  • Xavier Desjardins (Head of CRIA, UMR Géographie-Cités, Université Paris 1)
  • Olivier Sykes (University of Liverpool)
  • Juliette Maulat (UMR Géographie-Cités, CRIA, Université Paris 1, Réseau Ferré de France)

To register for the seminar, please contact us at: urbanrails2012@gmail.com

Second seminar - Building Territories Adapted to Networks: the Challenges of rail-oriented development (Liverpool, October 2012)


  • 191 rue Saint-Jacques (Institut de Géographie)
    Paris, France


  • Thursday, May 10, 2012
  • Friday, May 11, 2012


  • transport, urban development, France, United-Kingdom, comparative approach, transit-oriented development


  • Juliette Maulat
    courriel : juliettemaulat [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Juliette Maulat
    courriel : juliettemaulat [at] gmail [dot] com

To cite this announcement

« Rails and urban development. A Comparative Approach between France and the United Kingdom », Seminar and workshop, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, April 11, 2012, https://calenda.org/208112

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