Call Industrial Doctorate

Industrial Doctorate on Rail Transport Economics


Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona & Renfe


Renfe, Spain’s national railways operator, and the Ph.D. Programme in Applied Economics of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) offer a funded 3-year Industrial Doctorate position to carry out research on different areas related to economics of rail transport. This is part of the Industrial Doctorate program cofounded by the Generalitat de Catalunya.

The Ph. D student will work full time on the research project both at Renfe premises, under the guidance of a tutor, and at the University under the supervision of professors Anna Matas and Javier Asensio. (See below for a proposed outline of the thesis’ research tasks).

Candidates should have completed 300 ECTS and be eligible to UAB’s Ph. D programme in Applied Economics (

The candidate will be hired by Renfe for a maximum of three years, with an annual gross salary of 22,000 euros. The candidate should defend the thesis before the end of the contract.

The candidate will have access to a mobility fund by the AGAUR (the Government of Catalonia’s Universities Agency) to facilitate access to academic conferences and research trips. His/her Ph.D. programme enrolment fees will be waived.

Given that the Ph.D. candidate will develop part of his/her activity at Renfe’s Barcelona offices, he/she should be fluent in Spanish and/or Catalan language.

To apply, candidates should submit to AGAUR the form available at by June 2, 2021 at 12:00 (noon) hours (Spain time, CET). Applicants should also send by their cv and an academic tranascript of their research master grades to:

More details on this offer can be obtained from or by email from or



The Ph. D thesis will carry out original research along the following topics:

- Efficient price structure of rail services in metropolitan areas

The starting point of the research is the theoretical discussion on the optimal price structure of public transport in metropolitan areas (Basso and Silva, 2019, Brueckner, 2005). The outcome of this debate shows that the answer depends on the urban form, the pattern of travel and the relationship between price and cost of the modes of transport operating in the area. The increase in teleworking will reduce the travel frequencies of frequent users and, as a result, will affect the use of existing temporary season tickets. To a lesser extent, there may also be an increase in the distance travelled as consequence of the suburbanization process. These changes affect the optimum tariff structure and the frequency of services.

The aim of this chapter is to quantify the impact of different public transport ticket structures on social welfare, the number of passengers-kilometres and the revenues of public transport companies, taking into account the change in users’ behaviour described in the previous paragraph.

The research should develop a theoretical model for characterizing the optimal structure of rates and service frequencies and estimate the demand and costs coefficients necessary for its calibration.

- Willingness to pay for high speed rail attributes in a competitive context

Rail services not subject to public service obligation are open to competition between different operators. The traveller’s choice depends on the combination of offered price and quality, which, among other things, depend on travel time, frequency, reliability and on-board services. Recent literature (Fosgerau, 2019) shows that information technologies have changed the perception that travel time is a “lost” time insofar as the traveller can dedicate his/her time to productive activities. Understanding the willingness to pay for quality variables should enable the rail company to improve its competitive strategy by adapting its price structure.

The research aims to estimate the willingness to pay for the quality variables that railway operators can offer, focusing on the role of on-board technological services, trip frequencies and services’ reliability. This research requires conducting a stated-preferences’ survey to a sample of users, whose methodology has advanced a lot in recent years reducing its inherent (Soza -Parra et al 2019).

- Impact of the high speed rail on intermediate cities

The development of the HSR has been accompanied by the opening of stations in cities mid intermediate cities. One issue that has generated intense debate in the literature is whether the HSR has a positive economic impact on these cities or the so-called tunnel effect predominates (Gutierrez Puebla, 2004 ). Some recent studies analysing this topic are Koster et al (2020) and Ahlfeldt & Feddersen (2018).

The extensive development of the high-speed network in Spain, the period for which data is now available and the heterogeneity of the cities that benefit from it offer an ideal framework to analyse the HSR impact on intermediate cities.

The study aims to estimate the effect of high-speed network connection on economic activity and on population migration changes. Connections will be measured as changes in travel times between cities, also taking into account services’ frequency. This point is important because most available studies are limited to measuring HSR connections by means of a simple binary variable. A panel-data econometric model will be used. 



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