Institute for Transport Studies (ITS)



John Preston

Country: UK

Name: John Preston

Company: University of Southampton

Position: Head of the School of Civil Engineering and the Environment and Director of the Transportation Research Group

ITS Course: SERC/BR Case PhD Studentship 1982-1985

I am currently the Head of the School of Civil Engineering and the Environment and Director of the Transportation Research Group at the University of Southampton. I am responsible for almost 100 staff and 800 students. I teach on the MSc in Transportation Planning and Engineering and undertake research on all forms of transport, with a particular emphasis on rail.

As both a student (1982-85) and member of staff (1985-1997), "ITS impressed on me that transport could be a subject of serious academic endeavour in which theory can be put into practice" - so much so that I have spent my career in academic transport studies (at the University of Oxford from 1997 to 2005 and at Southampton since 2006).

I am extremely grateful for the transport economics I learnt from the likes of Ken Gwilliam, Chris Nash and Peter Mackie and the modelling I gleaned from the likes of Peter Bonsall, Dirk Van Vliet and Huw Williams.

I also learnt a lot from fellow PhD students such as Neil Douglas, Ian Savage and Mark Wardman. I have fond memories of the convivial spirit, the sense of humour and the atmosphere of collaboration that existed at the time. These are things I have tried to create at subsequent workplaces - with varying degrees of success.

I chose my course at ITS and Leeds because I was working in private industry in 1981/82, which although well paid was not intellectually very stimulating. I saw an advert for a Research Studentship in the Guardian and the rest was history. Leeds is my home town and I had family connections with the University - but those were coincidental.

"My advice to students interested in this course is that transport can be a really interesting academic subject that cuts across disciplines. It can lead to rewarding careers in both the public and private sectors."

However, to get the most out of transport studies you need to be able to deal with the more theoretical/fundamental aspects, as well as the applied, and be able to relate them to each other.