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High-speed rail in the UK

January 22, 2014
Author: Eve-Marie Morgo

With the UK announcing that its economy grew by just 0.2%, high-speed tens of billion costs are being questioned. The Economics Affair Committee's recent report announced that the high-speed link (HS2) between London and Birmingham, t will require a £1,000 contribution per income taxpayer.

Whilst initial costs are high it is crucial, especially in financially straitened times, to consider the overall high-speed rail' potential, as an economic asset and an aid to growth and regeneration.

High-speed rail: a great potential for the UK

In the UK, according to PWC's report, the government could recoup up to £7 billion as a return on a £13.9 billion investment. This figure, of course, does not take into account the wider economic benefits

In the longer term, the UK's HS2 project, could potentially:

  • Ease the economic gulf between the North and South
  • Create 38,900 jobs in Liverpool alone over the next 20 years
  • Reduce journey times between Birmingham and London
  • Support the growth of Birmingham’s existing financial and business sector


Rail travel: a powerful economic stimulant 

Looking to the past rail investments, rail has always had the power to stimulate economic activity:

  • Between 1820 and 1850 some 6.000 miles of railway were opened in Britain. The result was a greatly rebalanced economy and a significant rise in employment.
  • Between 1848 and 1850, £2 million (equivalent to approx. £117 million today) was invested and over 200,000 people were employed. 

Recently, South East Kent has experienced HS1's construction benefits. The line has cut journey times between Ashford and London St Pancras to just 39 minutes. Since the line opened, high-speed rail passenger statistics have increased by 120%. Demand for industrial space in the area has risen by 50% and house prices in areas served by HS1 have risen.

In light of this history, high-speed rail's benefits are obvious. Not only because it's having a positive economic impact on the country and its development, but also because is helping railways and travel sellers to meet passenger's demand, and therefore increases rail customer satisfaction. The question we should be asking now shouldn’t be ‘can we afford to invest in HS2’ but can we afford not to? 

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