Approaches to Measure the Wider Economic Impacts of High-Speed Rail and Experiences from Europe

Publication | May 2019

There is huge potential for improving the planning and decision processes of high-speed rail implementation in the European Union.

The European Union introduced the concept of Trans-European transport networks in 1996 and developed it from a set of projects into a comprehensive network plan in 2013. The high-priority components of this plan (for 2050) are a core network and nine core network corridors (CNCs), which the European Union intends to implement until the year 2030. The CNCs focus on improving connectivity, including harmonizing technology and organization as well as removing border resistance. Railways, in particular high-speed railways, are at the core of the CNCs. The evaluation of CNCs through conventional cost–benefit analysis (CBA) is too narrow and could lead to a patchwork of independent projects rather than an integrated network. Therefore, the European Commission has launched several studies on extending CBA with strategic approaches including wider economic impacts and long-term impacts on the environment, climate, and regional/social equity. As there has been no convention for a standard approach until now—contrasting CBA—we discuss several possible methodologies. The conclusion favors dynamic approaches that are well calibrated on the base of empirical observations, such as macro-econometric or system dynamics models, over theoretically more challenging general equilibrium models, although the latter are still the mainstream in the economic literature.


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  • Transport