Monday, 29 September 2008

Pros and Cons

On Comment is Free, Christian Wolmar has mixed feelings about the tory proposal for a high speed rail line and isn't sure that either the policy or the numbers make sense.
By supporting high speed rail wholeheartedly, the Tories have thrown the gauntlet down to Labour which has dithered over this issue, refusing even to sanction a detailed study of the possible costs and benefits despite a manifesto commitment to that effect. Moreover, in cementing their opposition to a third runway at Heathrow, the Tories have made it even less likely that this outrageous scheme would ever be built.
But does new rail infrastructure, like new airports, encourage travel?
There is an interesting example already on the existing high speed line. In order to increase usage of the line, the government decided to pay for the purchase of high speed trains that will bring in thousands of commuters from Kent. Indeed, housing is now being built in the Ashford area to accommodate them and therefore the overall effect is to encourage people to travel longer distances. The environmental case for high speed lines, therefore, is far from proven.

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