Institute for Transport Studies (ITS)



Christophe Speth

Country: Belgium

Name: Christophe Speth

Company: Stratec

Position: “Chargé d’études” (junior consultant)

ITS Course: MA Transport Economics, 2015

I am currently working as a “chargé d’études” (i.e. a junior consultant) at Stratec, a small-medium sized consultancy based in Brussels. We mainly work for Belgian and French clients who order transport studies. I work in a multi-skilled team: while my colleagues with an engineering background tend to be more focused on the development of transport models (for instance of the 4-step type), I, as an economist, tend to be more focused on pricing issues. Pricing in the transport sector is a very powerful instrument: it is of course used to generate revenues, but also to nudge people’s decisions toward a social optimum. I am currently working on two projects related to transport pricing; I work for Infrabel (the Belgian rail infrastructure manager) on the definition of a new track access charges scheme for the use of rail infrastructures by railway undertakings; and I work for a local authority in Morocco on the definition of a new pricing scheme for buses. 

The courses I followed at ITS have helped me to familiarise myself with the models and tools used in transport studies throughout the world, and to understand the specificities of transport that an economist must consider (non-storability, Mohring effect, etc.). As a result, it is much easier for me to work with my transport modelling colleagues than it would have been if I had not been at ITS, because I understand what they do, what inputs they need, and how I can use their outputs.

More specifically, I have worked on the same subject as my dissertation (estimating the marginal cost of rail infrastructure usage) as I started to work for Stratec. Needless to say, that helped a lot! 

I did my (first) master thesis on road pricing, so I had to consult a wide variety of sources. While doing an extensive literature review, I noticed that many publications came from ITS. For me, that was a sign that the expertise inside ITS is recognised throughout the world, so when I learned ITS combines researching and teaching, I didn’t hesitate much about my school choice! 

Transport studies are based on many different disciplines. Therefore, I believe it is always interesting to keep an open mind for other perspectives. For instance, if you are an economist, it is interesting to know more about operational issues (such as bus bunching for instance). I also think it is always worth applying for scholarships. That can help you financially in the short run, but also to find a job in the long run (from my point of view, this demonstrates your ability to organize yourself and to manage a project). 

I didn’t take part in the Employer Visits, but many other ITS students did and found a job through this channel. For students wishing to work in the UK, I would absolutely recommend attending it. 

The highlight of my career so far is that it is always rewarding when the recommendations you give are implemented by your client, especially when they are not obvious at first glance. 

With regard to help or advice from the school or university when it came to finding and applying for jobs, absolutely, there is a job center, there are job days, there are newsletters… If you are willing to find a job, you know where to start, you can be confident you will find one! 

My advice to other international students who are seeking work in the transport sector is that the transport sector is a global one, therefore the knowledge you acquire at ITS can be used wherever you work, at least in developed countries. The stakes being sometimes quite different in developing countries (for instance, a lack of infrastructures, rather than excess demand for trips made with a private vehicle), ITS has developed courses on issues specific to developing countries. Therefore, whichever country you want to work in, it is possible to build an expertise that fits the needs. More generally, I would advise being aware of local transport policy, organisations and issues.