On 18 June at the House of Commons, Dr Fiona Ferbrache (Keble College) and Professor Richard Knowles of Salford University, publicly launched the 'An Investigation into the Economic Impacts on Cities of Investment in Light Rail Systems' Report at the House of Commons. Drawing on light rail systems from around the world, the Report summarises independent, peer-reviewed, and other UK and global evidence and shows that investment in light rail systems can have positive economic impacts on cities.
Among the findings it was noted that light rail can:
- Improve economic growth by increasing the attraction of locations for inward investment;
- Transform accessibility to previously hard to reach sites such as derelict docklands, brownfield former industrial areas and reclaimed land;
- Improve accessibility and trigger reorganisation or rationalisation of production, distribution and land use;
- Alleviate transport constraints through increased capacity, better efficiency, new connections and improved accessibility;
- Lead to increased land and property values, and enable developed contributions to be made. However, land and property values are often not captured;
- Have enhanced impacts when planning policies are co-orientated in a transit-oriented development to focus investment in housing, employment, activity sites and public services around station sites; and
- Boost a city's image and attract inward investment, employers, business and tourist visitors. It can help create a distinct 'sense of place' and have an iconic impact on the urban landscape.
However, similar light rail investments in different locations will not necessarily have the same impacts - geography matters. More over, light rail investment on its own is unlikely to be a sufficient catalyst for economic growth without supportive policies. Further research is also necessary to isolate light rail's impacts from other factors and temporal trends, it is important to use similar control areas in Impact Studies.
Further details of the Report can be provided by emailing Fiona, and the work will be presented in two forthcoming conferences: the IGU 2014 Regional Conference in Krakow (August) and the RGS-IBG Annual Conference in London (August).