Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 1011–1029 | Cite as

Understanding Accessibility Changes from the Development of a High-Speed Rail Network in the Yangtze River Delta, China: Speed Increases and Distance Deductions

  • Lei Wang
  • Weiyang ZhangEmail author
  • Xuejun Duan


The rapid development of the high-speed rail (HSR) network in China has compressed intercity rail travel times. However, what is contentious is whether the expansion of HSR network has created a landscape of uneven accessibility, i.e. producing winners and losers regarding cities’ changing ability to access to the others. This paper uses the Yangtze River Delta (YRD) – one of the most populous and developed mega-regions with the high dense HSR network in China – as a case study to examine accessibility restructuring and major geographical features of winners and losers through a longitudinal comparison before and after the development of the HSR network. Analytical results show that the introduction of the HSR service network has exacerbated the uneven pattern of network accessibility formed by the conventional rail (CR) network. Aside from increased train speeds, intercity travel makes time savings thanks to significant rail distance deductions in the change from CR to HSR services because HSR needs a straighter trajectory, which is usually ignored in the literature. ‘Winner’ cities are either privileged substantially by a much higher quality of HSR service or a much shorter network rail distance. HSR cities can also lose out due to a large increase in network rail distance and a low quality of HSR service. Except for a few CR cities which neighbor HSR stations, thus winning an above average change, most CR cities are disadvantaged as a result of HSR network development. This paper extends the speed-dominated understanding of accessibility change from the network perspective of HSR services.


High-speed rail Conventional rail Accessibility improvement Train services HSR cities Yangtze River Delta 



This study was funded by Hallsworth Research Fellowship Fund (Chinese Political Economy) at the University of Manchester and Shanghai Philosophy and Social Sciences Fund (2018ECK009), as well as Major Projects of Humanities and Social Sciences Key Research Base of Ministry of Education (17JJD790007).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Manchester Urban Institute, School of Environment, Education and DevelopmentThe University of ManchesterManchesterUK
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Watershed Geographic SciencesNanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, CASNanjingChina
  3. 3.The Center for Modern Chinese City StudiesEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  4. 4.School of Urban and Regional ScienceEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina

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