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Quantifying the Economic and Social Impacts of High-Speed Rail: Some Evidence from Europe and the People’s Republic of China

Publication | May 2019
Quantifying the Economic and Social Impacts of High-Speed Rail: Some Evidence from Europe and the People’s Republic of China

High-speed rail (HSR) investment needs to be seen as one element in a comprehensive policy of regeneration and transformation; HSR cannot create change on its own.

In recent years there has been an increasing move toward allowing for impacts beyond the direct user benefits and costs in the appraisal of transport investments. Much of the interest to date has been in justifying the inclusion of such wider impacts as a genuine net addition to a cost-benefit analysis rather than just double counting of direct benefits or displacement effects. The focus has been mainly on the impacts on productivity and economic growth through the impact of increasing accessibility on agglomeration. We review the arguments in favor of measuring such impacts, the progress made in implementing such impacts in appraisal, and the limitations of such an approach. We then proceed to discuss approaches that analyze the way in which new transport infrastructure may lead to the restructuring and rebalancing of local and regional economies through structural change and the relocation of activities. Evidence from high-speed rail networks in Europe and the People’s Republic of China is used to examine changes in specialization, the impacts on knowledge-intensive sectors, and new firm formation.

WORKING PAPER NO: 962