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die belebende Bedenkung

To get rich, dig a big rail tunnel under the Pennines

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Improving regional and local transport in the North of England sounds like a good idea. But why gimmickry such as the One North proposals — presented to chancellor George Osborne by the leaders of a few Northern cities — should receive anyone’s support, is difficult to understand. The Economist magazine seems to think that gibberish such as a multi-billion pound new Pennine base tunnel would ‘make the North like northeastern Illinois’.

Get rich like Chicago by, er, running infrequent and low speed commuter rail? - The Economist

Get rich like Chicago by, er, running infrequent and low speed commuter rail

[‘Never walk alone’, Northern solidarity could give Britain a big economic boost, The Economist, Apr 19th 2014]

[…] Trace a rectangle 110 miles long and 90 miles wide, with Blackpool at its north-west corner and Birmingham to the south. The region contained in it has most of the ingredients for a global metropolis. In area and population it is comparable to Greater Chicago — home of corporate headquarters, world-class cultural amenities and soaring towers. Both Chicago and Britain’s metropolitan north are former industrial centres that grew rich in the 19th century but fell on hard times in the 20th. Yet their paths have diverged. Real incomes in Chicago are roughly 80% higher than in Britain’s ex-industrial core (see chart), according to figures gathered by the Brookings Institution, an American think-tank. And though the fortunes of Britain’s cities are improving, the gap in productivity and dynamism between its biggest industrial corridor and those of foreign peers is striking.

Needless to say, public transport in Greater Chicago is not actually very good. In particular, commuter rail outside the city limits is mostly infrequent, low-speed and diesel powered. In 2012 Metra carried just 80 million passengers (Merseyside, a much smaller conurbation, manages around 40 million annually).

The Economist also seems to be implying that city size is related to productivity. But when this kind of claim is made, megacities like Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Mumbai, and Kinshasa rarely seem to be included in the comparison.

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Written by beleben

August 6, 2014 at 4:21 pm

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