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21.11.14

High-speed rail can deliver regeneration benefits – ITC

High-speed rail (HSR) can be the cornerstone for a step change in the integration and improvement of regional infrastructure in the UK, according to a new report by the Independent Transport Commission (ITC). 

The study – ‘Ambitions and Opportunities: Understanding the Spatial Effects of High Speed Rail’ – stated that in order for HSR to act as a catalyst for economic regeneration there needs to be correct planning and investment in place. 

Drawing on best practice from cities and regions connected by HSR in the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, the study examines the regeneration and connectivity benefits of the European HSR network to create a tool-kit for policy makers in the UK’s cities, regions and national government. 

The ITC stated that excellent integration of transport systems with HSR can lead to a step-change in the quality of public transport across all modes; long-term planning enables cities and city-regions to capture and shape these positive changes through incremental improvements; and collaboration between central and local government, as well as between the developers and local citizens and civic groups, is essential to delivering this change. 

The researchers highlighted that the TGV stations Gare d’Austerlitz and Gare de Lyon in Paris have generated impressive regeneration areas in their vicinity. This is because the planners grasped the importance of having a ‘grand’ strategic vision and developing this incrementally, in order for the redevelopment to adapt over time. They added that a similar approach has been adopted at King’s Cross St Pancras, with the regeneration of a formerly run-down area. 

John Worthington, the ITC commissioner and chairman of the HSR working group, said: “Our research on the impacts of HSR 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.”

The report comes as the government attempts to strengthen its case for HS2. Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that the “hugely positive impact” of projects across Europe shows that the government’s transformational ambitions are achievable if everyone works together and plans ahead. 

“We have made great progress in encouraging towns and cities across the country to get ready to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity HS2 presents,” he added. 

The ITC also welcomes the government’s recent announcement of the creation of Transport for the North, a new body bringing together representatives of major cities to create a proper regional transport network. 

It stated: “The proposition by Sir David Higgins for a Transport for the North forum is a good start. We would also encourage building on the Core Cities and Key Cities networks and interlinking these. There is also a potential for LEPs to work together across boundaries to create such forums. 

Sir David, chairman of HS2, added that the report sets out in clear detail, not just the very tangible benefits high-speed rail has brought to cities and their regions throughout Europe, but also the sustained focus, commitment and collaboration between central and local government necessary to maximise those benefits. 

(Image: c. HS2 Ltd Birmingham & Fazeley canal viaduct)

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