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asian high speed rail (HSR): changing economic geographiesn.ppt
and rail investment:
Prospects for Asian
Cameron Gordon, PhD
Associate Professor, Economics, University of Canberra
Senior Visiting Fellow, UNSW-Canberra (ADFA) – Business
Principal Investigator, University Transportation Research
Center Region 2, City University of New York
Presentation for the Crawford School of Public Policy |
Arndt-Corden Department of Economics
November 19 2013
• 1. A brief appetiser from economic history
• 2. Transport investment and benefit: travel
time, accessibility, agglomeration and
• 3. What is HSR?
• 4. HSR in Asia – a brief history
• 5. HSR in Asia – its current impacts
• 6. HSR benefits – Asian Agglomerations.
• 7. An Asian Century for HSR?
1. A brief appetiser from
economic history: rails and the
development of the US West
• Economic historians have extensively
studied an earlier epoch of rail, mainly the
building of railways throughout the world in
the 19th century.
• One very well studied phenomenon has
been the role that the building of the
Intercontinental railway had on the
development of the US economy.
• Transport infrastructure is usually assessed
according to the 'Value of Travel Time
• The advent of railway technology certainly
increased the speed of travel and thus notionally
reduced the amount of time spent traveling from
point to point.
• But the historical evidence shows that VTTS may
not have been the main benefit of the railways.
• Changes in accessibility to markets may have been
as or more important.
Did these travel technologies
primarily deliver 'VTTS’?
2. A typology of rail investment
• Consider an economy characterised by
the following two functions:
• (1) Y = f(K,L)
• (2) U = f(c1,c2..cn )
This, of course is a simple depiction of an
economy with a production function (1)
and a consumption/utility function (2).
VTTS as the major transport
• Transport is generally seen as a 'derived'
demand, i.e. in the quest for getting things
we really want we have to 'consume' a
certain amount of transport.
• We don't want the transport itself but
consume it as a means to the end of
getting the things that give us utility.
• Hence reducing travel time is a
consumption 'good'. This is the major
basis of VTTS: as a consumption benefit.
Productivity benefits – a VTTS
• Productivity benefits primarily come, however,
through the production side of the economy. VTTS
'productivity' benefits could be acting in this way:
• Y = f(0.X*L, K), Y = some fixed quantity ‘N’
• In other words, VTTS could be allowing for the same
Y to be delivered for a fraction of L that was used
prior to the rail investment. For example, perhaps
workers are less tired with new shorter commutes or
have worked during their commutes.
• This is not easy to measure and not typically used in
Productivity benefits – non VTTS
• More typically transport productivity
benefits would look like the following:
• N*Y=f(K,L), where N>1
• Here N represents some increase in Y per
unit of input that is activated by changes in
production that are enabled by a transport
• These must be considered completely
separately from VTTS benefits, although
reduced travel time is often the channel for
Sources of 'N'
• Accessibility: the shape of the market expands and
allows for greater potential demand which drives
greater supply which in turn drives things like greater
division of labour and economies of scale.
• Agglomerations: people can increase their density at
key points because density has positive 'returns'.
• Two points: (1) accessibility and agglomeration are
closely related and (2) they only become
'economies' if there is increase in net productivity on
the production side.
• If there are just transfers but not net gains
these may have social value but are not
Types of agglomeration benefits
• Agglomeration benefits (i.e. true productivity
increases) are varied but Hensher et al (2013)
notes three main types:
• input/output linkages between intermediate
and final goods
• Labour market interactions
• Knowledge spillovers
Agglomerations might have any or all of these
features and actually more and the lines
between these might be fuzzy.
• Y = f(K,L) ← f, K and/or L might all be affected.
3. What is ‘High Speed Rail’?
• Of course conventional rail has been
around for over a century and a half.
• What is the difference between this and
‘High Speed’ Rail (HSR)?
• There is actually not a firm definition in
the literature but the basic difference boils
down to maximum speeds that HSR can
achieve. These are now 300 kph or
more, a good 100-150kph more than
maximum speeds on ‘regular’ rail.
Speed and technology
• Top speed is one thing but average rail speed is a
function of a number of things, one of which is
technology. Some technologies, e.g. ‘maglev’, are
basically new rail technologies, but most HSR
systems are variations on traditional ‘steel on steel’
rail modes, emphasising improvements in track,
vehicles and, especially, signalling.
• ‘Non-technological’ factors are often just as
important to speed, especially alignments (long
straight rail lines above ground are best for speed),
minimisation of stops along corridors, and overall
system capacity (sharing rail with slower traffic such
as freight slows overall speeds).
4. Asian HSR -- history
• Interestingly, Asia (a very broad region indeed) was
the birthplace of ‘High Speed Rail’ (HSR).
• Japan began construction of the world first HSR with
its ‘bullet trains’ in 1959, with first service opening in
1964 to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics.
• This first line along the Tokyo-Osaka corridor was
dubbed ‘new trunk line’ (‘shin kan sen’ in Japanese)
and the whole network ultimately became known as
• Japan was the first country to build a dedicated high
speed network, separate from the regular rail
network. This model became the direct inspiration
for the French high speed AVE network.
Japanese Rail Financing
• The Shinkansen was built by government
through the auspices of Japanese National Rail
• Financing was obtained from Japanese
Treasury loans using superannuation and other
savings funds (e.g. those accumulated through
the Postal Savings System etc.). Huge debt
was accumulated, despite profitable operation
on main lines, through mandated crosssubsidies for regional service.
• In 1987, JNR was privatised and became the
Japan Railway (JR) companies, with the huge
debt separated into the public sector.
Japan’s network today
(source: Nakagawa and Hatoko, 2007)
• In 1989 the Taiwan government decided to
proceed with its own HSR system, separate, as
in Japan, from the conventional rail system.
• As in Japan, capacity constraints, combined
with a concentred dense population, made the
project relatively easy to justify economically.
• In 1993, it was decided to privatise the project
using a BOT model with a 35 year concession
to the successful private bidder.
• In 2000 a concession was awarded, financed
through a bank loan consortium. Service
commenced in 2007.
Taiwan’s ‘North-South’ network
(source: Kao, Lai and Shih, 2010)
South Korea HSR
• South Korea began studying the prospect of
HSR in 1972, commencing a more formal study
• Approval for proceeding came in 1989 and
construction planning began in 1992 under a
special government authority.
• A BOT was rejected as too risky and the project
was largely government run and financed
through conventional sovereign appropriations
and debt finance.
• Commercial service commenced in 2004.
South Korea’s HSR
(source: Lee and Chang, 2006)
• China, the region’s largest economy,
came to the HSR game relatively late.
• A large increase in conventional rail
expansion began in 1978 as part of the
Deng reforms and the Ministry of
Railways began five rounds of ‘speed up’
campaigns from 1997-2004 to improve
operational performance (e.g. doubletracking).
• Construction of the first HSR line began in
A great leap forward
• China’s progress in building an HSR network
has been phenomenal.
• The first HSR line between Qinhaungdoa and
Shenyang commenced service in October 2003
and by 2011 the country had built 7500 km of
HSR in total, the largest HSR network in the
• Current plans are to double that network by
2020 to 16000 km.
• Financing arrangements are somewhat obscure
but it appears that roughly half of the capital
comes from domestic bank loans, bonds and a
surcharge on freight.
China HSR by 2020
(source: Tang, Savy and Doulet, 2011).
5. Asian HSR impacts
• Economic and ridership experiences
across the Asian countries which currently
have HSR systems is broadly consistent
with experience of other countries.
• HSR tends to dominate as a mode choice
in the 200km to 500 km trip range on a
downtown to downtown basis, and
competes with air in the 500 km to 600
km trip range. Above that amount of
distance other modes, especially air, are
preferred. This seems to hold in Asia.
• A key reason for these modal splits are travel time. At an
average speed of say 250 km per hour, a 500 km trip
can be considered a day return (at the outside) and
hence allow for a wider geographic set of commuting and
business travel choices.
• HSR also limits the need for modal shifts that travel to
airports in particular require.
• Ningbo-Shanghai HSR, for example, has a roughly 2
hour journey time so downtown returns could
conceivably now be day-trips rather than overnight trips
with (a) single-mode rather than mode switching (as with
airplane travel) and (b) potentially higher productivity
'work-time' during the trip.
• The four Asian countries mentioned also seem
to experience a cycle common to HSR – rapid
growth in usage over the first 20 years with a
moderating near the end of that cycle and a
relative flattening after that.
• In that sense HSR is like any other product in
which maturity of service is met with declining
patronage growth. What it does say is that
most HSR investments, if well planned and
priced, will cover their operating costs fairly
early on (though South Korea overestimated
initial ridership figures by roughly 50%).
The ridership cycle
(source: Kao, Lai and Shih 2010)
The Asian maturity cycle
(source: Campos and Rus 2009)
Opex versus Capex
• The Asian experience is consistent with almost
all other HSR systems in the sense of having
high capital expense (capex) that are very likely
to be unrecovered over the life of the system
and hence will need high initial public
investment. There are wide variations in this,
and one set of authors has found Asia to have
somewhat higher capex per km that other
countries (though some of this has to do with
very high land acquisition costs for ROW in
places like Japan).
• Operating expense (opex) as already
mentioned is generally recoverable.
Capital costs of HSR worldwide
(source: Campos and Rus 2009)
Development stages and finance
The history of Asian HSR thus far does say a lot about
the links between stage of development and ability to
finance and operate HSR.
Being capital intensive, HSR requires sufficient capital
through either domestic savings and/or foreign
investment to be feasible to build.
Since capex is generally going to be unrecoverable in
full, PPP mechanisms and traditional inward FDI are
generally not going to be an option for new project
finance (though Taiwan did manage to use a PPP).
Also there have to be enough potential travellers with
sufficient disposable incomes to pay HSR fares and
have a high enough VTTS to want the service.
Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and now China all
reached a sufficient development level for HSR.
Densities and Geographies
• It is perhaps no surprise that Japan was the world
pioneer in HSR.
• 75% of Japanese GDP is concentrated along the
two Shinkansen corridors of Sanyo and Tokaido
and the system was built in the context of a narrow
island corridor with a dense, road, conventional rail
and air traffic network at capacity (and with dense
cities with scarce automobile parking). Economic
growth was also very rapid during the system’s
• South Korea and Taiwan have similar operating
conditions. China, though much larger as a country,
is not dissimilar in its historical settlement patterns.
6. What’s next? Asian agglomerations
• There are two basic benefit channels:
• (1) HSR → VTTS → u(c)
• (2) HSR → accessibility → agglomeration →
Y = f(K,L)
• With respect to (1) all we are concerned with
is that it takes travellers less time to get to
and from major capital city downtowns and
time is money/value.
• But (2) may be the more important element
with Asian HSR (and some argue with HSR
Compressing China by rail
(source: Tang, Savy and Doulet 2011)
Asian Urban Hierarchies
• The Asian countries with HSR and many of
the landmass ones currently without it (large
archipelago nations such as Indonesia and
the Philippines are obviously not candidates
for HSR networks, though perhaps some
key trunk lines) have dense and wellordered urban hierarchies that HSR has
substantial influence over.
• Opportunities for net agglomeration gains
via urban specialisation are quite high in this
7. The Asian Century of HSR?
• China is in the current vanguard of
investing its own domestic HSR network.
• It is also in the vanguard of making
strategic investments in a potential Asiawide HSR network.
• For example, China is having discussions
with the Turkish government for joint
finance of a Kars-Edirne line that would
reduce travel time across Turkey from 36
hours to 12 hours.
• Of course, HSR investments, as noted
earlier, require lots of money.
• The subcontinent, home to half of the
region’s population, is much poorer overall
than North and even Southeast Asia,
despite rapid growth.
• India has a rail network that is one of the
world’s largest but it is in decrepit condition.
The Indian Railways Minister announced a
$9 billion investment plan in 2010 to
increase travel times but this is far below the
necessary funding for true HSR.
• HSR in Asia is expensive but potentially
• Worth it? Governments there have put money on
the proposition generally with impressive results.
However the capital investment is ‘strategic’ in the
sense that they are unlikely to be fully recovered.
• A key element is to have productivity gains lead the
analysis/design project design horse rather than
just VTTS since these may be the main changes
that an HSR will deliver.
• Financing is critical. Query: is there enough regionwide payoff for some multilateral aid to lagging
areas to make HSR investments?