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HSR will benefit the regions more than London

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Evidence submitted to the Independent Transport Commission by Greengauge 21 sheds light on a hotly-debated topic: whether the north or south will get most benefit from high-speed rail.

“There are good reasons to believe that the regions will benefit more than London,” says Greengauge 21 Director Jim Steer, “because the capital enjoys excellent connectivity already. While HSR will improve transport accessibility across Britain, in the key regional cities the difference will be transformational.”

The Greengauge 21 report highlights three factors which underscore this conclusion.

First, one of the key benefits of high-speed rail is better connectivity to the gateways for global commerce, the main international airports and also the Channel Tunnel for access to the European HSR network. New HSR links will provide direct fast high-quality rail access from the regional cities to the nation’s busiest airport, Heathrow, and to continental Europe, ending London’s relative advantage.

Second, London already enjoys what are known as the benefits of ‘agglomeration’. Businesses prefer to locate in the capital partly because they gain from proximity to other businesses as well as to their customers. A high-speed rail network that provides fast links between the key provincial cities, as well as to London, will give businesses located in those cities a similar kind of functional proximity to each other. This will generate the same kind of agglomeration effect London businesses enjoy today, adding to national economic output.

Third, high-speed rail creates a tremendous development stimulus – as has been seen already in London with High Speed 1 and the regeneration of the railway lands at both Kings Cross and at Stratford. But London has comparatively little brownfield ex-industrial or railway land left to regenerate, whereas the key regional cities have plenty.

“Together, these factors suggest that while London has much to gain from high-speed rail, it is the key regional cities whose economies will get the greatest stimulus”, says Jim Steer.


Greengauge 21’s submission can be found here.