Let Us Change England’s Economic Geography

Gains From the Proposed High-Speed Rail Link in England (Claudio Munoz)

By Caspar Lundsgaard-Hansen

This week the Economist, a weekly news and international affairs publication from England, highlighted that railroad connections usually serve two directions. You think this is trivial? Well, maybe not.

The article introduces the plans for new 32 billion pound high-speed connections from London to ‘the North’. The aim is, among other things, to “transform the prospects of the north of England, and ameliorate the north-south divide in Britain’s economy and prosperity.”

But as the author shows it is not exactly clear which way capital and talents will move – there are, like I indicated above, at least two possible directions. Experiences from other countries reveal that the effect of such projects “has often been to strenghten the competitive advantage of an already dominant city. In France, more businesses have relocated their headquarters to the capital since the Paris-Lyon high-speed line opened in 1981. Since a new Spanisch railroad opened in 1992, Madrid’s business population has swelled at the expense of Seville.” The author concludes: “Far from strenghtening the north, then, a high-speed line might end up accentuating regional disparities.”

In other words, Manchester moves closer to London. But London also moves closer to Manchester. It is therefore more complicated than one might think and “(…) the current plan might prove a high-speed route in the wrong direction.”

Read the whole article here.

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