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Regional development and high speed rail in France: accessibility gains are not enough

Abstract : The improvement of mobility has been an outstanding feature of the industrial revolution. Over a long period of time, per capita GDP was increasing at a rate which was similar to the rate of increase in the annual distance travelled. Taking into account the fact that the travel time budget has been almost stable, there is an undeniable correlation between economic growth and speed. From this correlation, can we infer causality? In other terms, can we convert the increases in utility provided by increases in accessibility into potential increases in GDP and number of jobs? The fact that there is a close correlation between accessibility and productivity does not mean that the first causes the second. By comparing the economic growth of French “regions” since 1989, even the correlation between accessibility and economic growth is not obvious. The same result is obtained at the level of a lot of French agglomerations close to the high speed line, for instance in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region. These results should discourage us from seeing accessibility improvements as a magic wand to foster regional development.
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Yves Crozet. Regional development and high speed rail in France: accessibility gains are not enough. Revue d’histoire des chemins de fer, Association pour l’histoire des chemins de fer, 2018, Vingt années sous la Manche, et au-delà ? / Twenty years under the Channel, and beyond ?, 48/49, pp.419-436. ⟨halshs-02134416⟩

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