Europe shows how high speed rail can change regional economies, says new study

High speed rail can provide a step change in regional infrastructure according to a new report by the Independent Transport Commission.

High speed rail revitalised Lille in France

Based on international research high speed rail (HSR) can help increase the long term capacity of the UK’s transport infrastructure and act as a catalyst for economic regeneration of the country’s cities and regions, the ITC found.

"There are very many examples where investment in HSR has been the catalyst for significant urban and regional renewal."

'Ambitions and opportunities: Understanding the spatial effects of high speed rail' draws on best practice from cities and regions connected by HSR in the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. And it uses evidence from success on the continent following the arrival of HSR to create a tool kit for policy makers.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, who was at the launch of the report, said: “This is a welcome addition to the case for high speed rail in Britain. The hugely positive impact of projects across Europe shows that this Government’s transformational ambitions are achievable if everyone works together and plans ahead.”

HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins said: “This report sets out in clear detail, not just the very tangible benefits high speed rail has brought to ciites and regions throughout Europe, but also the sustained focus, commitment and collaboration between central and local government necessary to maximise those benefits.”

According to independent transport commissioner John Worthington: "Our research on the impacts of high-speed rail in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, has shown that, far from being a white elephant, there are very many examples where investment in HSR has been the catalyst for significant urban and regional renewal.  

"This has happened when HSR has been properly integrated with the local transport network, when co-operation has been strong between all interest groups, and when cities have planned ahead and understood that regeneration is a long-term process.  

You can read the full report here.

The key findings from the report include:

Integration of transport systems with HSR can lead to a step-change in the quality of public transport across all modes

Case study: Rotterdam Central station is an excellent example of a transport interchange connecting HSR services seamlessly with local and regional transport modes. The use of a holistic economic and spatial strategy for the Randstad (Netherlands) has helped the area to implement a coherent transport plan. In terms of rail, the area has benefitted from ensuring good local connectivity to HSR stations, and thinking of the rail system as a network rather than a series of lines. 

Long-term planning will enable cities and city-regions to capture and shape positive changes through incremental improvements 

Case studies: The TGV stations Gare d’Austerlitz and Gare de Lyon in Paris have generated impressive regeneration areas in their vicinity. The planners have grasped the importance of having a grand strategic vision and developing this incrementally, in order that redevelopment can adapt over time. A similar approach has been adopted at King’s Cross St Pancras, with the regeneration of a formerly run-down area. This has been successful because Argent Group initiated a series of innovative temporary uses for the development site while the main buildings are being restored and developed.

Collaboration between central and local government, as well as between the developers and local citizens and civic groups, is essential 

Case study: Although its HSR line will not be completed until 2017, the Bordeaux Atlantique project has already connected an excellent tram network to the HSR station, and generated huge improvements in the public realm. The success of the project has been built on engagement with all stakeholders, coupled with clear leadership from the Mayor and the public development corporation. 

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