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Agglomeration benefits and high speed rail

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Part of the attempt to post-rationalise the High Speed Two scheme has involved suggesting that Great Britain is falling behind in “connectivity” compared with other countries, and that ‘agglomeration benefits’ particularly accrue from high speed rail. But the evidence from European counterparts suggests that it’s Great Britain that generally has the connectivity advantage in large city pair journey times, and service frequencies.

One example comparison is the fast journey time between the capital and second city in France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Great Britain.

Origin Destination Journey time (minutes) Type Rank
Paris Lyon 129 High speed rail 3
Roma Milano 177 High speed rail 5
Berlin Hamburg 95 High speed rail 2
Madrid Barcelona 158 High speed rail 4
London Birmingham 82 Classic 1

This is not an unrepresentative result. Generally favourable outcomes arise when comparing British frequency of service, or journey times, with other internal city pairs within continental Europe.

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