What is the economic benefit of high speed rail? How is it measured? How can it be measured, let alone forecast? And who gains anyway?
The usual benefits of transport schemes are reduced costs or reduced travelling time. Although economists put a value on "time saved", this usually ends up in land values as the areas that benefit become more attractive. Reduced costs also ends up as a land value enhancement. This was seen dramatically in the Docklands area where a study commissioned by Transport for London revealed an aggregate land value uplift of £10 billion attributable to the Jubilee Line Extension.
It is known that high speed rail results in land value uplift around stations, by concentrating large numbers of people into a small area. It also depresses land values along the route through which it passes, due to disturbance and restriction of access. The winners and losers are those who own land.
What is less certain is the overall effect on land values in a region. What would happen to land values in Scotland if the journey time between London and Edinburgh were reduced to three hours?
If the aim of high speed rail is to promote the economies in regions remote from the capital, would it not be simpler to re-balance the tax system in favour of the more distance regions?