School’s transport economist highlights impact of high-speed rail for China

The School’s transport economist, Professor Roger Vickerman, presented his research on the wider economic benefits of high-speed rail in Europe on a recent visit to China.

Professor Vickerman, who is Dean of the University’s Brussels School of International Studies, was invited to talk at the prestigious Institute for Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research of the Chinese Academy Sciences in Beijing to discuss mutual research interests.

As well as presenting his research paper, The wider economic impacts of high-speed rail in Europe, based on his current research into methods of economic appraisal for major transport infrastructure projects, Professor Vickerman had a meeting with the Institute Director and participated in a seminar discussing current research projects with the Institute’s research staff.

Professor Vickerman said: ‘High-speed rail in China has developed at an astonishingly fast rate and is leading to significant reductions in rail journey times in such a large country. It is clear that methods of approving new projects are very different from both the economic appraisal methods and the public consultation and parliamentary approval required in the UK.

‘Although the rail technology was initially imported from Europe, China has now developed a significant high-speed rail industry of its own. However, the pace of development may have been too fast as a serious accident in 2011 was blamed on poor quality control and corruption.

‘Plans to develop a network of up to 16,000 km by 2015 have been scaled back and speeds reduced on much of the network. Alongside high-speed rail development, China has also been investing heavily in airports, and again it seems that there has been a lack of a more formal national planning process.’

Professor Vickerman’s visit, at the end of November, is likely to lead to further co-operation between the University of Kent and the Institute. Kent is involved in joint research with universities in Hong Kong to explore the extent to which the European experience of high-speed rail can inform economic planning for high-speed rail development in the region.