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Maximise growth and development opportunities

In this series of blogs, I have been focussing on the differences between our approach compared with the 2013 HSR Study.  In addition to focusing on regional growth and integrating high speed rail with the exiting network, the third major difference is to explicitly coordinate urban and economic development projects with the opening of a high speed line to a regional city.

The impact of high speed rail is now well understood.  Economists agree that high speed rail induces new demand by making it easier and reducing the cost for long-distance travel.  Much of the induced travel is due to the relocation of people and businesses, particularly to regional areas, and to increased business activity between centres on the high speed rail network.

Spain provides the best example of how high speed rail can be used to modernise the country’s economy and promote regional development.  Spain has built the second longest high speed rail network in the world, spanning over 4,000kms and still growing.  In Spain, the construction of new railway infrastructure goes hand-in-hand with significant urban (re)development projects, particularly around the railway station. 

Now, across Europe, smaller cities use the opening of a high speed rail line to make a qualitative leap in economic activity, urban development and quality of life.  They have learned that high speed trains must stop at existing stations inside the regional city.  These stations must become local transport hubs serving the city and its surrounding regional area.  Station precincts must be activated for increased shopping and business activity.  And incentives are needed to encourage investment in jobs-creating industries.  Complementary initiatives to deliver these capabilities must be conducted in conjunction with the introduction of the high speed line.

But the real power of transformation is in local leadership by proactive stakeholders who have a direct interest in transforming their local communities.  They strengthen support for the high speed line and enhance the likelihood that growth and development will flow from it.  As a result, most European countries now open strategic planning to a more extensive network of local stakeholders, including direct participation by the population, to increase the success of investing in new high speed rail infrastructure.


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