Infrastructure imaginaries: The politics of light rail projects in the age of neoliberalism

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In the last decade light rail transit systems have become a popular mode of public transport in many cities around the world to upgrade the existing public transportation network, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to support neoliberal urban development strategies. The paper takes its starting point in the growing critical literature discussing the politics of light rail and related transport infrastructure projects in the context of neoliberalism. The paper uses the case of Aalborg, Denmark, to demonstrate how light rail projects are embedded in particular infrastructure imaginaries, which reflect wider political agendas of promoting urban development and economic growth. In the case of Aalborg, the city’s spatial strategies have played an important role in constructing an imaginary of the city as the region’s ‘growth dynamo’, which in turn have led to a growth-fixated conceptualisation of the city’s spatiality, and contributed to rationalising the need for investments in light rail. The paper argues that light rail projects are first and foremost politically rationalised as important investments for facilitating urban development and supporting entrepreneurial city strategies of urban and economic growth, whilst their social objectives of providing affordable public transportation play a less prominent role in the contemporary imaginary of the city.

Original languageEnglish
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1811-1826
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • light rail
  • neoliberalism
  • politics
  • spatial imaginary
  • strategic spatial planning


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