Written evidence from Marilyn Fletcher
Will HSR bring economic benefits? Can Dr Terry
Gourvish's "The High-speed Rail Revolution: History and Prospects"
shed light on this?
Dr Gourvish was commissioned by HS2 Ltd to write
an appraisal of the global experience of HSR. I am not an economist,
but I do pay attention when one of the UK's leading academic authorities
on rail from the London School of Economics says:
"Do HSRs stimulate economic growth? It is often
assumed that the improvements in accessibility which are created
will enlarge markets and increase the competitiveness and productivity
of firms within a newly-connected region. However, most studies
indicate that it would be unwise to pin much faith in new railways
as an engine of growth. This is not to say that a growth stimulus
is entirely absent. In 1997 the European Commission estimated
that the major TENs would add only 0.25% to EU GDP, and 0.11%
to employment over 25 years. The literature review of Preston
and Wall produced the conclusion that the growth impact of HSRs
was likely to lie within the modest range of 1-3% of GDP."
It should be noted that the 1997 estimate was published
when money was being poured into HSR and yet the predictions of
benefit from HSR on growth and employment were low.
Dr Gourvish had nothing more to say on the matter.
The researcher was equally lukewarm about any regenerative
effect from HSR. Whilst Lille is often quoted as benefitting economically
from HSR there are many places where regenerative effects have
been modest or disappointing.
2. Dr Gourvish's Credentials
2.1. Business History of the UK and Europe, especially
railways, are among his special interests.
2.2. In addition to numerous papers, he has written
several authoritative works on the subject:
railway 1997-2005: Labour's strategic experiment (2008).
official history of Britain and the Channel Tunnel (2006).
Rail 1974-97: from integration to privatisation (2002).
ferrocarriles como medio de transporte en Gran Bretaña,
regulation of Britain's railways: past, present and future.
In: Andersson-Skog, Lena and Krantz, Olle, (1999).
3. I think the Committee would agree that what
a leading academic says on the subject is more likely to be nearer
the truth than an economist with other interests to protect. As
the Committee will know, for a university academic, giving a balanced
critique is extremely important.
4. The Committee may be interested to learn that
although "History and Prospects" was commissioned by
the developer, HS2 Ltd did not include Dr Gourvish's appraisal
with its other commissioned work in the List of Supporting Documents
(page 246) of its March 2010 Report to Government. Gourvish and
his work are only referred to in text on page 23 when rolling
stock speed is being discussed. His paper was required to support
the "basic model" for HSR in the UK (page 27 March 2010
Report to Government). This includes factors such as maximum speed
and usage which have become contentious subjects.
5. I can only surmise that whilst HS2 Ltd was
happy to refer to Dr Gourvish's work when it suited the developer,
it did not want to draw attention to his less favourable findings.
The High-speed Rail Revolution: History and Prospects
London School of Economics Dr Gourvish
HS2 Ltd March 2010 Report to Government