Written evidence from Adrian Hopkinson
Please accept my contribution to the debate about
High Speed trains, as one who witnesses the operation of German
High Speed trains most weeks. I commute to Dusseldorf from Birmingham
(Warwick). My family used to live in Germany, and I have worked
there for the best part of 30 years. As a financial analyst, my
work analysing industrial success has taken me to every corner
of that country.
1. General summary. It is not clear that an infrastructure
of high speed trains helps those at the wrong end of the railway
line! On the basis of travel inside Germany and observation of
what is occurring in the different areas of the country, the correlation
between the existence of high speed trains and the prosperity
of the locality is the opposite of expectations. Three case studies
2. Good conditions for high speed rail in the
Federal Republic. In most cases existing railway lines could be
upgraded to achieve speeds of 200 kilometres or above. The process
of smoothing out curves and gradients could be achieved because
of the much wider spaces available. The incentive to do so exists
because the distances from large town to large town are large,
and aeroplane capacity not always convenient. On several routes
speeds drop to conventional speeds: ICE trains are not always
HS. They are often quite conventional.
3. Case study one. Cologne/Frankfurt. Some six
years ago the high speed line between Cologne and Frankfurt (on
Main) was completed. Trains can achieve over 300 kph on this brand
new route and have reduced journey times between these two cities
from 2.5 hours to 1 hour. The route was laid alongside an existing
motorway: expensive but not too controversial, and it is a completely
new train route. Previously it ran along the river past Koblenz
which is why it took 2.5 hours.
.since building the new line the
consequences for the economy and employment in the Rhineland (at
the western end of the line) do not seem to have been entirely
as expected. Frankfurt goes from strength to strength. It is as
much an industrial as a banking centre. But Cologne/Dusseldorf
(capital of Germany's most populous state Nordrhein-Westfalen)
still appears lacking in economic impetus.
5. Indeed the situation is worse than that. Frankfurt's
strength as a financial centre within Germany has increased. The
largest bank in Cologne, Sal Oppenheim, has been subsumed into
Deutsch Bank during the credit crisis, and many of its activities
moved to Frankfurt. The bank where the writer works, WestLB, has
reduced its Dusseldorf workforce by around 20%, whilst maintaining
its presence in Frankfurt (and London). Its shareholders are increasingly
trying to develop a new role for the bank now that its regional
relevance has been reduced.
6. It is hard not to believe the HS train contributed
to the increased polarisation. Thanks to the new train services
bankers from Frankfurt can attend in the Rheinland, so that local
banks are not so necessary. Financial services have tended to
7. Case study two. Munich and Stuttgart. In other
parts of Germany, there are also some interesting straws in the
wind as far as analysis of economic consequences is concerned.
Munich, the economic powerhouse of Germany, is linked to Frankfurt
by trains, which only achieve HS1 type speeds on part of the route.
(Prosperity can be measured in GNP per head or in terms of levels
of employment). The reason for this lies in the conservatism of
the electors in Bavaria and Baden Wurttemberg who resist intrusive
investments which damage buildings and the landscape. Baden Wurttemberg
and Bavaria compete for highest National Income per head in D.
Stuttgart is HQ for Mercedes Benz, and no slouch from an economic
point of view. Possibly this has caused them to prioritise roads,
but it certainly cannot be said that absence of HSR has impeded
their economic progress.
8. Case study three. Hannover and Berlin remain
a sharp contrast to the southern states. Both are joined by excellent
HSR in all directions, but continue to be economic slow-coaches.
Because of their previous situation close to the border zone between
east and west Germany, they have always had excellent infrastructure
of all kinds. Even so Berlin still only has one or two stock market
9. Hannover itself is an interesting case, because
it was host to the German celebrations of the new millennium in
2000. In preparation for the millennium celebrations (Expo 2000),
all the transport connections were upgraded. Particularly the
rail connections were improved with the construction of a brand
new railway station to receive high speed trains from Frankfurt,
Berlin and Hamburg. Hannover remains at the centre of a network
of high speed trains. The Expo was a reasonable success, but subsequently
the activity level in the city appears to have stabilised. I have
not seen any reports that the excellent infrastructure has brought
industrial rejuvenation to the area. Rather one suspects, the
opposite has occurred. Lower Saxony of which Hannover is capital
has an unspectacular economic performance.
10. It would be interesting to hear evidence
from town councillors of Hannover, about the contribution made
to them by HSR. They would surely be in a good position to advise
whether talent from Leeds and Manchester might be sucked away