High-speed railroads and economic geography: Evidence from Japan


High-speed railroad development is growing tremendously especially among the developing countries such as Russia, Brazil, and China. High-speed railroads have enhanced efficiency in transportation as they save travel time while improving population mobility. Population mobility is responsible for impacting economic geography. The article is a study that is conducted to demonstrate that high-speed railroads can either diffuse or polarize economic geography given the sector as well as the distance existing between cities (Li and Xu, 705). The restricted study that was conducted concerning high-speed railroads revealed the absence of consensus about the spatial impact of high-speed railroads’ investing leaving a gap for policy debates about the issue. The article is developed from a background of high-speed railroads in Japan as well as its macroeconomic environment which includes the industry structure’s evolution population dynamics that potential factors. This critical analysis will attempt to suitability, the structure and the structure of the article emphasizing its content quality.

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The article has been initiated by the gap that was identified based on the previous pieces of research that were conducted to explain the relationship between time saved by the construction and use of high-speed railroads. In the previous studies, it was deduced that were compared to the various land transport modes, high-speed railroads reduced time consumed by interregional passengers. The main issue is that the studies failed to provide a piece of conclusive evidence that high-speed railroads reduced time consumed by intraregional commuters and cargo – a feature that is rarely explored. The article’s purpose is to bring into light the spatial impact of high-speed railroads. To be able to understand the purpose, the article provides a hypothesis that expounds on the relationship between the adoption of high-speed railroads and passengers’ time-saving. The article, therefore, hypothesizes that the impact of high-speed railroads on economic geography varies by sector as well as the distance between noncore and core cities (Li and Xu, 706). To explain the intention of the hypothesis, given the longevity of the distance, high-speed railroads will initiate a stimulus that will agglomerate the transport sector towards core areas. Conversely, the manufacturing industry shifts from the core as a result of the incremental cost of living in urban areas. On the other hand, if the noncore and core areas’ distance tends to be short, the transport sector will decentralize and lie towards noncore regions. The explanation correlates with the scattered patterns of the empirical literature even though the testing of the evidence is extremely limited. The study is directed by the research question; are the suburbs of the core areas expected to expand the operations of high-speed railroads? Data from Japan is used to reach empirical evidence. The article poses a conclusion that; high-speed railroads diffuse and polarizes economic geography given the transport sector and distances between various cities.

From general understanding, the construction of high-speed railroads has enhanced efficiency in the transportation sector even though the degree of efficiency is dependent on the distance and the geographical area. For instance, in Japan which is the case study in this article, high-speed railroads are a success in the sector and this is mainly due to its small geographical scope. This basic knowledge can be magnified to relate the article. This shows that the article is well positioned and the information that is investigated is consistent with what is on the ground. To extract the required data for the study to reach its conclusion, quasi-experiments were employed. Quasi-experiments are advantageous in identifying causal effects that is why a quasi-experiment was used to define the causal effects that the economy would experience when high-speed railroads. The data was used to provide valid empirical evidence. The demerit of using quasi-experiments is the experiments are unable to eliminate biases that can lead to a fall out in determining causal inferences. Based on the conclusion, the biases seem to be non-existent since the expected results came out clearly.

The main issue and argument of the article are perfectly stated and presented in the three hypotheses and cannot be disputed. The arguments have been combined and integrated to come up with a sensible conclusion. The hypotheses have listed a series of diffusion or agglomeration patterns. The patterns are well scattered in the literature. The patterns have not been systematically examined, but the variables are explained consistently with how they affect each other. To start with, those service sectors with higher agglomeration economies initiate high-speed railroads that will improve the integration of core areas. The relationship of the variable explains that noncore regions cannot independently exist in the industry. The second hypothesis explains that noncore regions nearer to the core’s periphery require additional industrial mechanisms after high-speed railroads have been established. The hypothesis postulates that the economic density and high population in core regions normally increase the costs of operations for companies while increasing the residents’ costs of living. Logically, newly-designed transit systems can decentralize residential and economic activities to the suburbs from the core. Conducive costs of living and business conditions can be established if decentralization is adopted together with well-designed transport facilities such as the high-speed railroads. In the second and the third hypothesis it is assumed that the impact that is caused by the high-speed railroads seem to be heterogeneous especially between manufacturing and transport service sectors. In Japan, for instance, there is a high population density in transport service sectors thus crowding out manufacturing activities because of incremental urban costs. Nevertheless, manufactured goods and transportation sectors cannot be impacted by the initiation of high-speed railroads. The arguments have been explored exhaustively as they are in the hypothesis and the article’s purpose has been fulfilled. The examples provided in the Japanese context are consistent with the content exposed in the article.

The article has provided good literature that lays the background of what the study intends to deduce. Japan is among the counties that have embraced high-speed railroads and it is among the countries with small geographical areas. The research has been conducted based on the information extracted from the region which means that the article is well positioned and is very persuasive. The article has persuasively provided information that in Japan, high-speed railroads are an attractive and alternative mode of transport for passengers. This information is consistent with the perceived results and hypotheses. The article is also very persuasive given the main sources and how data for analysis was acquired. The information from the residential population between the transitional years 1980 to 2003. The data was collected at the prefecture level and the municipal level. The employment levels from the year 1980 to 2000 based on a five-year frequency at municipality levels (Li and Xu, 711). The information found in the two sources is primary information that is free from any distortion. The calculation of latitude and longitude coordinates provides information concerning geographical areas and this is the information that is used to understand how the wider the geographical area impacts the efficiency of high-speed railroads. The sources provided viable information, therefore, there is no doubt concerning the estimates that were used to reach conclusions. The study has defined dependent variables as indicators of economic activities such as time, municipality, residential population and employment. The regression equation was used to draw inferences related to long-term and short-term effects that affect high-speed railroads. The article has explained how every variable impact a given variable such as the sector, distance, intraregional high-speed railroads effects, alternative control groups and changes in travel time. Even though the quasi-experiment is prone to various biases, it was controlled by posing an assumption that control and treatment groups were consistent with common trends. The validity of the experimental comparison of the groups was created that consisted of some synthetic control to do away with rising problems during the analysis.


Overall, the article is well organized and the results are well deduced. Even though there are measures put in place, quasi-experiments used are prone to biases that may be transferred to the analysis that will eventually provide wrong results. Also, the article concentrated on Japan. In the literature review, no theoretical and conceptual framework prepares the readers for the perceived results. The article needs improvement in the part of the literature review.


Work cited

Li, Zhigang and Xu, Hangtian. High-speed railroads and economic geography: Evidence from Japan. Journal of Regional Science, 2017.