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School of Environment and Life Sciences

Professor Richard Knowles

Honorary Professor of Transport Geography


I was educated at Abbeydale Boys Grammar School, Sheffield and then at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Geography Department where I studied for a BA (Honours) Degree in Geography and then undertook research in Transport Geography in Norway for my PhD.

I became a Lecturer at the University of Birmingham and then Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader and Professor at the University of Salford. My research in the United Kingdom, Scandinavia and Canada has been focused throughout on spatial impacts of transport infrastructure investment (especially light rail, bridges and tunnels), on transport policy changes (especially bus deregulation and rail privatization) and on differential collapses in time-space.  

My research’s international significance was recognized by the 2004 Edward Ullman Award for significant contributions to Transportation Geography by the Association of American Geographers in 2004 and the 2010 Alan Hay Award for contributions to Transport Geography by the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers).

I am an Editorial Board member, and was Founding Editor (1993-2012), of the Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, Oxford ranked by Thomson Reuters at the end of my Editorship with the second highest Impact Factor of all international transport research journals. 

I am also Co-Editor of the Transport, Mobilities and Spatial Change Book Series, published by Edward Elgar.  I am the President and elected Chair of the International Geographical Union’s Research Commission on Transport and Geography since 2009.

My current research focuses on transit-oriented development, sustainable cities and economic impacts of light rail investment on cities.  Since October 2014 I co-surpervise one PhD research student.


I have developed innovative courses and fieldwork at Salford and have taught in my the area of expertise on aspects of Human Geography including, Transport Geography, Scandinavian Cities with Fieldwork, Urban and Political Geography and MSc Transport Planning whilst also supervising PhD, MSc and undergraduate research.  Since October 2014 I co-surpervise one PhD research student.

Research Interests

My research has concentrated throughout on two themes:

1.    examining the effects of transport policy changes – deregulation, privatisation and franchising – on modal switch, patronage, market domination and subsidies in different geographical contexts.

2.    analysing the transport and spatial development impacts of new transport infrastructure and technology: a) in urban rail transit, b) in fixed link tunnels and bridges and c) in the differential collapse in time/space and cost/space at global, regional and local scales.

My innovative research findings include: evaluating the impacts of national borders on interaction ignored by conventional transport demand models; proving that light rail systems can secure substantial modal switch from cars and help create more sustainable urban development; challenging theories used to justify deregulation; demonstrating that privatized railways can grow passenger traffic even during economic recession.

Qualifications and Memberships

BA Honours Geography Degree 2(1) University of Newcastle upon Tyne 1968.

PhD in Geography, University of Newcastle upon Tyne 1977.

Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)


Publications: selected publications back to 2008:

Ferbrache F and Knowles RD (2017) City Boosterism and Place-Making with Light Rail transit: a critical review of light rail impacts on city image and quality, Geoforum, 80, 103-113

Knowles RD and Binder A (2017) MediaCityUK: A Sustainable Transit-Oriented Development, Chapter 1, 3-12 in Theakstone W (ed) Manchester Geographies, Manchester Geographical; Society, Manchester, UK

Knowles RD and Ferbrache F (2016) Evaluation of Wider Economic Impacts of Light Rail Investment on Cities, Journal of Transport Geography, 54, 430-439

Knowles RD and Rozenblat C (eds) (2016) Sir Peter Hall – Pioneer in Regional Planning, Transport and Urban Geography, Springer Briefs on Pioneers in Science and Practice, Volume 52, Springer International Publishing, Switzerland

Ferbrache F and Knowles RD (2016) Generating opportunities for city sustainability through investments in light rail systems: Introduction to the Special Section on Light Rail and Urban Sustainability, Journal of Transport Geography, 54, 369-372

Ferbrache F and Knowles RD (eds) (2016) Special Section on light rail and sustainability, Journal of Transport Geography, 54, 369-387

Knowles RD and Ferbrache F (2014) An Investigation into the Economic Impacts on Cities of Investment in Light Rail Systems, report for UKTram, Birmingham, June 104pp

Knowles RD (2013) Railway franchising in Great Britain and the effects of the 2008-2009 economic recession, Environment and Planning A, 45(1), 197-216

Knowles RD (2012) Transit Oriented Development in Copenhagen, Denmark: from the Finger Plan to Ørestad, Journal of Transport Geography, 22(1) 251-261

Matthiessen CW and Knowles RD (2011) Scandinavian Links: Mega Bridges Linking the Scandinavian Peninsula to the European Continent, Chapter 42 pp 735-746 in Brunn S (ed) Engineering Earth: The Impacts of Megaengineering Projects, Springer, Dordrecht

Docherty I, Shaw J, Knowles RD and Mackinnon D (2009) Connecting for competitiveness: the future of transport in the UK regions, Public Money and Management, 29(5), 321-328

Knowles RD and Matthiessen CW (2009) Barrier effects of International Borders on Fixed Link Traffic Generation: the case of Øresundsbron, Journal of Transport Geography, 17(3), 155-165

Knowles RD, Shaw J and Docherty I (Eds) (2008) Transport Geographies: Mobilities, Flows and Spaces, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford