The venerable Economist has come out in opposition to a $52 billion plan to build high-speed rail from London to Manchester and Leeds. As the magazine-that-calls-itself-a-newspaper explains in an accompanying article, the new line would take two decades to build and produce questionable benefits for the nation.
While rail proponents claim that new train lines will create “a golden age of prosperity,” the Economist is dubious, noting that it is more likely that fast trains will benefit some cities at the expense of others. “New Spanish rail lines have swelled Madridâ€™s business population to Sevilleâ€™s loss,” says the editorial. “The trend in France has been for headquarters to move up the line to Paris and for fewer overnight stays elsewhere.”
“Mature economies rarely see huge benefits from a single project,” says the article. The $52 billion would “yield a higher return if it were spent on less glitzy schemes, such as road improvements and intra-city transport initiatives.” Fortunately, “Britain still has time to ditch this grand infrastructure projectâ€”and should,” says the editorial. “Other countries should also reconsider plans to expand or introduce such lines” as well.