Publication: Brain train or brain drain? Еffects of high speed rail on the spatial structure in the age of the knowledge economy
Transport infrastructures facilitate access to people, knowledge, and markets, thus increase the “potential of opportunities for interaction” (Van Geenhuizen et al., 2007: 7) of a place and stimulating economic activity, leading to urban development. Particularly in Europe, High Speed Rail (HSR) has been of growing importance in providing passenger mobility on medium distances. During the last three decades, HSR has connected more and more cores of metropolitan regions, airports, and sometimes also previously unserved peripheral places nationally and later internationally. Its spread occasionally also led to a reduction in rail accessibility when conventional rail services were subsequently reduced. At the same time, globalisation means that the ‘knowledge economy’ (KE) is becoming a key driver of development especially in highly developed countries. The performance of firms depends more and more on knowledge as production factor, and the input of highly skilled workers. Locational factors of knowledge-intensive firms differ from those of ‘conventional’ firms. They seek a combination of ‘global pipelines’ and ‘local buzz’ (Bathelt et al., 2004), i.e. global connectivity together with a stimulating local environment of face-to-face contacts. Under these conditions, HSR stations come into focus as potential new nodes for future economic development, since the immediate surroundings of HSR stations profit most from a gain in accessibility and provide ‘spaces for dialogue’, which are of particular relevance for KE firms. There have been several studies on the structural effects of HSR lines, especially in the cases of the French TGV and Spanish AVE networks. Despite the strong growth of ridership, hopes of a dispersion of economic development away from the metropolitan centres did not always materialise. Instead, some cases suggest that HSR access leads to ‘brain drain’ effects, upscaling on Mega-Regional levels, and residential ‘supersuburbanisation’ instead. Other studies argue that positive economic effects exist, but are merely of a redistributive nature. In each instance, the influencing factors augmenting economic development in the individual case, such as integration with the conventional network, and local absorptive capacity, must be more thoroughly discerned in research on transport effects. In this study, we present the results of a gravitational accessibility analysis of the German rail network in 1990, before the opening of the first HSR line, and its comparison with the 2017 values to quantify gains and losses in accessibility generated by HSR. The German case differs somewhat from most other European cases due to its federal, more dispersed spatial structure and the lack of a clear dominant centre. Furthermore we project accessibility changes by two ongoing HSR projects such as the new Berlin-Munich mainline via Erfurt and Nuremberg. We find that, besides obviously boosting accessibility in previously poorly connected areas, even stations which lose access to the intercity train network profit from HSR through greater overall network effects. However, the upgrading of the conventional rail network in East Germany after 1990 improved accessibility levels more than HSR projects. The results of the accessibility analysis can then be used for a range of ‘quasi-experiments’ for difference-in-difference analyses (cf. Ahlfeldt and Feddersen, 2010) of firm locations, especially in situations of high accessibility differentials, e.g. ‘external shock’ conditions in peripheral areas. As an outlook, we propose such a methodology to test the effects of accessibility changes on the development of knowledge-intensive firms, both in the immediate surroundings of new or upgraded HSR stations, as well as their regions.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Spaces of Dialog for Places of Dignity, Lisbon, 11-14th July, 2017
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