Professor Jon Shaw

Professor Jon Shaw

Head of School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)

Professor Jon Shaw can be contacted through arrangement with our Press Office, to speak to the media on these areas of expertise.
  • Geography
  • Transport
  • Sustainable transport
  • Public transport
  • Transport policy
  • Air travel
  • Government policy
  • Trains


I am Head of the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences. 

A fair proportion of my time is spent in this management role, but I continue to teach classes and conduct research in my specialist field of the geography of transport, travel and mobility. This research ultimately ends up being published as books, academic journal articles and policy and / or consultancy reports. My latest book, Transport Matters, was published by Policy Press in October 2019.


I have a BSc (First Class Hons) in Geography, a PG Dip (Distinction) in Social Science Research and a PhD in Human Geography.

My academic career has come full circle: I started out in Plymouth as an undergraduate in 1992, before spells in the United States and Scotland (and shorter stays in Australia, Germany and New Zealand). I moved north to become a Lecturer in Geography at the University of Aberdeen, and stayed in the Granite City for seven years. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2003 and was Head of Geography & Environment in 2005 and 2006. I returned to Plymouth in 2006 to take up a Readership in Human Geography and was promoted to Professor in 2008. 

Throughout my career I have tried to fashion a profile as an 'all round' academic, engaging myself in research, teaching and administration in more or less equal measure. In addition to writing books, journal articles and reports, I have developed a varied teaching portfolio and held numerous managerial roles including Research Group Leader, Research Centre Director, Head of Department and Associate Head of School.

Professional membership

I am a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Roles on external bodies

I am a member of the Great Western Railway Stakeholder Advisory Board, the Plymouth Strategic Infrastructure Board, the Policy Advisory Board of the South West Business Council and the Scientific Advisory Board of econex verkehrsconsult. I am the Deputy Chair of the European Platform for Transport Sciences, and I acted as the Specialist Adviser to the Transport Select Committee of the House of Commons for its inquiry into the major road network.

I am also an Ambassador for the City of Erfurt, in Thüringen – eine sehr schöne Stadt. Ich empfehle gerne einen Besuch!



Teaching interests

In my career I have taught numerous aspects of human geography. Because my PhD focused on transport and travel issues, I have always been involved in teaching Transport Geography modules, but my time at the University of Idaho in the 1990s gave me a lifelong love of the American West. Over the years I've written classroom-based modules on the USA and set up a field trip to the Pacific North West, a variant of which has run 14 times since 2002. I also teach political and economic geography. 

At the moment I teach on four undergraduate modules:

GGX1205 The Geographical Journey
In this module we aim to address the fundamental questions, what is geography? And why is it important? In its simplest form, I suppose, geography is the study of where things are, why they're there, and what they mean. We use a variety of local, national and global examples to introduce students to key themes and debates in contemporary human and physical geography. 

GGH1202 Changing Places
This is a wide-ranging module which exposes students to a variety of topics studied by geographers and the different ways we go about studying them. I teach the political and economic geography sections of the module, dealing with ideas of states, nations, territory, governance and state restructuring, electoral geography, firms, labour and world trade. 

GGH2207 Transport, Travel and Mobilities
I co-teach on this module which covers different ways of looking at transport, travel and mobility. We identify where people, goods and information go, and explain when, how and why they go there. We go on to look at the significance of a range of everyday experiences of being ‘on the move’. The reasons why and how people move—via private car rather than public transport, for example—can be understood really effectively by examining what people do and feel during the time they spend travelling. Finally, we consider the mobility of specific groups of people and things. The often-competing discourses put forward by politicians and the media regarding the movement of people, products and services, resources and pollution, and ideas and beliefs, have profound implications for how people relate to each other.

GGX2204 Fieldwork in Geography: The Changing American West
The result of having lived in the USA and developing many professional contacts and friendships across the Pond, this module involves between 20 and 40 students boarding a plane to Seattle to experience and learn about the Pacific Northwest for 11 days. We split the trip into two parts: the first week involves students investigating a different geographic theme each day (for example, we investigate 'conflict' in the deserts and mountains around Richland, Washington, and 'society and nature' in the Columbia River Gorge). In the second half of the trip students divide into groups of 4-5 and undertake a project of their own design. 



Research interests

My research mainly focuses upon the geographical implications of mobility / accessibility, and issues to do with transport and governance. Together with colleagues at Erfurt University of Applied Sciences in Germany, I recently completed a project on Transport Needs in an Ageing Society - the so-called 'TRACY' project (all European Union-funded projects have increasingly jaunty and progressively tangential acronyms). At the other end of the spectrum I've also of late been involved with work on jogging and the mobility experiences of people with disabilities.   

In my career I've been involved in research into all manner of things to do with transport, travel and mobility. I started out in the 1990s with a project on the privatisation of British Rail, in which I got to interview key politicians and civil servants involved with the controversial policy. 'Getting my hands dirty' in research terms has always been one of my favourite aspects of my job, but sadly as I have become more senior (both in years and professionally) I have found that opportunities to actually go out and do my own research have become fewer and further between. In an attempt to put this right, together with Iain Docherty (Stirling) and Danny MacKinnon (Newcastle) I embarked upon a project about the impact of devolution on UK transport policy in which we deliberately involved no research assistants 'in the field'; getting to interview the main protagonists in this area was fascinating and we wrote up the results as a book for Elsevier Science, Diverging Mobilities. A second, extended and fully updated version of this book, Governing Mobilities, will be published by Edward Elgar once we've finished the necessary research, this time with our colleague David Waite (Glasgow).

One of the other aims of the devolution project was to bring together two usually completely separate areas of literature, namely those of political geography and transport geography. In another book with Iain Docherty (The Transport Debate, published by Policy Press) I sought to do this again, this time attempting to pull together the work of transport geographers and transport studies specialists with that written by scholars working in the sociologically-inspired 'new mobilities paradigm'. The book was designed to introduce key ideas and concerns of transport and mobilities scholars through the lens of a series of familiar journeys (the commute, the school run, the holiday, etc.) made by a fictitious Anglo-Scottish family, the Smiths. 

My latest book, Transport Matters, was published by Policy Press in 2019. Co-edited with Iain Docherty, it brings together 27 leading scholars in the transport and mobilities fields, and demonstrates the importance of transport as a means of achieving a whole range of different government policy goals from economic development to health and wellbeing.

Indeed, a common thread to my work has been transport policy - its impacts, complexities and appropriateness and, in British terms at least, the extent to which it is fit for purpose. I have recently been able to play a small part in influencing transport policy thanks to a project with Dr Andrew Seedhouse of Smart Applications Management, which was judged by the REF 2014 panel to constitute a 4* Impact Case Study. We obtained more than £4m of government funding to help roll out the nationwide introduction of 'smart' ticketing as a means of making bus transport more appealing. This is particularly difficult in provincial Britain because of the deregulated structure of the bus sector outside of London. 

Research groups

Grants & contracts

Grant awards include:

Gather, M; Kritzinger, S; Shaw, J; Aslaksen, F and Wilde, M (2015) €35,000 from the Kuratorium für Verkehrssicherheit for the project, Strategische Themenschwerpunkte in der europäischen Verkehrssicherheitspolitik 2016-2020.

Gather, M; Shaw, J; Aragall, F; Aslaksen, F and others (2011) EUR 633,600 from the European Commission for the project, Transport needs for an ageing society

Shaw, J and South West Smart Applications Ltd (2010) £1.85m from the South West Improvement and Efficiency Partnership Capital Fund for the project, Introduction of ITSO smart ticketing into strategically significant cities and towns in south west England.

Shaw, J and the South West Smartcard Forum (2009) £40,000 from the South West Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnership Enterprise Fund for the project Delivery framework for the introduction of a shared, regional, open access Smartcard Back Office System.

Shaw, J and the South West Smartcard Forum (2009) £20,000 from the South West Regional Development Agency for the project Southwest regional smartcard development project.

Docherty, I; Shaw, J; Preston J and others (2008) £73,800 from Strathclyde Partnership for Transport for the project High speed ground transport – Glasgow-Edinburgh corridor.

Shaw, J; Gray, D and Yarwood, R (2008) £5,430 from the Commission for Rural Communities for the project Transport futures: the potential impacts of road pricing on rural areas.

Shaw, J; Charlton, C and Burningham, R (2008) £55,200 from Great Western Research, Looe Valley Railway Company and First Great Western for the PhD studentship A critical evaluation of community rail policy and practice.




Recent papers include:

Bonehill, J; von Benzon, N and Shaw, J (2020) ‘The shops were only made for people who could walk’: impairment, barriers and autonomy in the mobility of disabled adults. Mobilities 15, 341-361.

Docherty, I; Shaw, J; Marsden, G and Anable, J (2018) The curious death – and life? – of British transport policy. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space 36, 1458-1479.

Dawson, D; Hunt, A; Shaw, J and Gehrels, R (2018) The value of climate data in adaptation decisions: sea-level rise and coastal transport infrastructure. Ecological Economics 150, 1-10.

Johnson, R; Shaw, J; Berding, J; Gather, M and Rebstock, M (2017) European national government approaches to older people’s transport system needs. Transport Policy 59, 17-27.

Cook, S; Shaw, J and Simpson, P (2016) Jography: exploring meanings, experiences and spatialities of road running. Mobilities 11 (5) pp. 744-769.

Dawson, D; Shaw, J and Gehrels, R (2016) Sea-level change and transport infrastructure: the case of the coastal railway line at Dawlish, England. Journal of Transport Geography 51 (1) pp. 97-109.

Andrews, G; Parkhurst, G; Susilo, Y and Shaw, J (2012) The grey escape: how and why are older people really using their free bus pass? Transportation Planning and Technology 35 (1) pp. 3-15.

Gehrels, R; Dawson, D; Shaw, J and Marshall, W (2011) Using Holocene relative sea-level data to inform future sea-level predictions: an example from southwest England. Global and Planetary Change 78 (3/4) pp. 116-126.

Shaw, J and Sidaway, J (2011) Making links: on (re)engaging with transport geography and transport in geography. Progress in Human Geography 35 (4) pp. 502-520.

Shaw, J and MacKinnon, D (2011) Moving on with filling in: some thoughts on state restructuring after devolution. Area 43 (1) pp. 23-30.

Docherty, I and Shaw, J (2011) The transformation of transport policy in Great Britain? ‘New Realism’ and New Labour’s decade of displacement activity. Environment and Planning A 43 (2) pp. 224-251.

Yarwood, R and Shaw, J (2010) ‘N-Gauging’ geographies: indoor leisure, model railways and craft consumption. Area 42 (4) pp. 425-433.

MacKinnon, D and Shaw, J (2010) New state spaces, agency and scale: devolution and regionalisation of transport governance in Scotland. Antipode 42 (5) pp. 1226-1252.

Shaw, J and Hesse, M (2010) Transport, geography and mobilities. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 35 (3) pp. 305-312.

MacKinnon D, Shaw, J and Docherty, I (2010) Devolution as process: institutional structures, state personnel and transport policy in the United Kingdom. Space and Polity 14 (3) pp. 271-287.

Cumbers, A; MacKinnon, D and Shaw, J (2010) Labour, organisational rescaling and the politics of production: union renewal in the privatised rail industry. Work, Employment and Society 24 (1) pp. 127-144.


Docherty, I and Shaw J (eds) (2019) Transport matters. Policy Press, Bristol. 424pp.

Shaw, J (2019) Competition, regulation and the privatisation of British Rail. Routledge Revivals reprint of the original Ashgate edition. Routledge, London.

Shaw, J and Docherty, I (2014) The transport debate. Policy Press, Bristol. 236pp.

Rodrigue, J-P; Notteboom, T and Shaw, J (eds) (2013) The Sage handbook of transport studies. Sage, London, 448pp.

Docherty, I and Shaw, J (eds) (2008) Traffic jam: 10 years of ‘sustainable’ transport in the UK. Policy Press, Bristol. 250pp.

MacKinnon, D; Shaw, J and Docherty, I (2008) Diverging mobilities? Devolution, transport and policy innovation. Elsevier Science, Oxford, 243pp.

Knowles, R; Shaw, J and Docherty, I (eds) (2008) Transport geographies: mobilities, flows and spaces. Blackwell, Oxford. 293pp.

Docherty, I and Shaw, J (eds) (2003) A new deal for transport? The UK’s struggle with the sustainable transport agenda. Blackwell, Oxford, 256pp.

Freeman, R and Shaw, J (eds) (2000) All Change: British railway privatisation. McGraw-Hill, Maidenhead, 250pp.


Recent chapters in edited books include:

Shaw, J and Docherty, I (2019) Transport matters. In Docherty, I and Shaw J (2019) (eds) Transport matters. Policy Press, Bristol, pp. 3-28.

Docherty, I; Shaw, J and Waite, D (2019) The political economy of transport and travel. In Docherty, I and Shaw J (2019) (eds) Transport matters. Policy Press, Bristol, pp. 29-53.

Cook, S; Shaw, J and Simpson, P (2016) Running order: urban public space, everyday citizenship and sporting subjectivities. In Koch, N (ed.) Critical geographies of sport: space, power and sport in global perspective. Routledge, London, pp. 157-172.

Shaw, J and Docherty, I (2014) Geography and transport. In Adey, P; Bissell, D; Hannam, K; Merriman, P and Sheller, M (eds) The handbook of mobilities. Routledge, London, pp. 25-35.

Docherty, I and Shaw, J (2012) The governance of transport. In Kemp, R; Lyons, G; Dudley, G and Geels, F (eds) Automobility in Transition? A socio-technical analysis of sustainable transport. Routledge, Abdingdon, pp. 105-122.

Docherty, I and Shaw, J (2012) Transport in a sustainable urban future. In Flint, J and Raco, M (eds) The future of sustainable cities: critical reflections. The Policy Press, Bristol, pp. 131-152.


Recent reports include:

Shaw, J (2016) International commuting trends and policy implications. In Committee for Perth (ed) Get a move on! A landmark report to get Perth moving. Committee for Perth., pp. 25-33.

Gather, M; Aslaksen, F; Kritzinger, S; Shaw, J and Wilde, M (2016) Strategische Themenschwerpunkte in der europäischen Strassenverkehrssicherheitspolitik 2016-2020 (Main strategic themes of European road transport safety policy). Kuratorium für Verkehrssicherheit, Vienna, 118pp.

Gather, M; Shaw, J et al. (2013) Transport needs for an ageing society: Action plan. EU Seventh Framework Programme.

Rodrigue, J-P; Notteboom, T and Shaw, J (2013) The handbook of transport studies. In Rodrigue, J-P; Notteboom, T and Shaw, J (eds) The Sage handbook of transport studies. Sage, London, pp. 3-13.

Shaw, J and Stokes, G (2011) Rural transport in 2030: scenarios and implications for transport policy. Commission for Rural Communities, Cheltenham.



Reports & invited lectures

Some recent inverted lectures are:

Shaw, J (2020) Access for all across different spatial scales. Transport Research Network symposium, University of Otago, New Zealand, 20 February.

Shaw, J and Docherty, I (2020) Transport matters. University of Oxford, UK, 30 January.

Shaw, J (2019) Making transport accessible. University of Malta, 8 October.

Shaw, J (2019) Promoting accessible spaces of mobility. University of Western Australia, 28 March.

Shaw, J (2019) Verkehrsstrategie in London (Transport Strategy in London). Erfurt University of Applied Sciences, Germany, 30 January.

Shaw, J (2018) Die Privatisierung der britischen Eisenbahn: eine Erfolgsgeschichte? (British railway privatisation: a success story?). Keynote presentation to the Annual Conference of the Society of German Transport Sciences, 8 June.

Shaw, J (2016) International commuting trends and policy implications. Keynote address to the Committee for Perth event Get a Move On, Perth, Australia, 19 June.

Other academic activities

I was the Associate Editor (UK & Ireland) of the Journal of Transport Geography (2004-2011), and was the Chair (2001-2005) and the Secretary (2005-2009) of the Transport Geography Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers). I remain on the International Editorial Board of the Journal of Transport Geography, and am also a member of the International Editorial Board of Travel Behaviour & Society.

I was the winner of the 2018 Alan Hay Award for Significant Contributions to Transport Geography, and the joint winner (with Iain Docherty) of the 2006 Scottish Transport Award in the category of Young Transport Professional / Researcher.

I have acted as a referee for the ESRC, the British Council, the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, the European Union and for all major geography and transport journals.