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High Speed Rail in Northern England Tactics and Policies for Implementing Mega Plans by Modular Incrementalism

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Britain lags behind many other countries in its provision of high-speed rail. This paper looks in depth at the challenges of providing high-speed rail links, east–west, across Northern England, identi fied as a key issue by former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in his Northern Powerhouse speech in 2014. We ask what can be learned from the politics of Britain's successful motorway programme in the 1960s and 1970s, and from the plan advanced for High Speed North by the late Professor Sir Peter Hall and colleagues, published some weeks before Osborne's speech. Introducing the concept of centripetal urban dynamics, we doubt whether the suppression of public transport demand by the Covid 19 virus will be long lasting. Thus the Hall Plan still has remarkable relevance, especially in its tactics for sequencing investment, which we term modular incrementalism. Some updating is needed, so that the investment strategy focuses on super critical problems for rail investment. We conclude with recommendations for the High Speed North project itself and re flect on wider implications for decision-making processes.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2020

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  • Built Environment is published quarterly in March, June, September and December. With an emphasis on crossing disciplinary boundaries and providing global perspective, each issue focuses on a single subject of contemporary interest to practitioners, academics and students working in a wide range of disciplines. Issues are guest-edited by established international experts who not only commission contributions, but also oversee the peer-reviewing process in collaboration with the Editors.

    Subject areas include: architecture; conservation; economic development; environmental planning; health; housing; regeneration; social issues; spatial planning; sustainability; urban design; and transport. All issues include reviews of recent publications.

    The journal is abstracted in Geo Abstracts, Sage Urban Studies Abstracts, and Journal of Planning Literature, and is indexed in the Avery Index to Architectural Publications.

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