Regional polycentricity: an indicator framework for assessing cohesion impacts of railway infrastructures
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Territorial cohesion has become one of the main objectives in transport planning. This has fostered the development of assessment methodologies to quantitatively estimate the territorial impact of major transport infrastructures, which are particularly scarce at the intra-regional level. Linked to cohesion, polycentricity has been defined as the best spatial configuration to achieve balanced regions where population and opportunities are distributed among several entities linked by functional relationships. This paper aims to present a methodology to estimate these impacts based on the use of a new regional composite polycentricity indicator. The proposed indicator is tested by comparing the effects of conventional and high-speed railway (HSR) alternatives in the territorial system of a northern region of Spain. This quantitative assessment is a ranking tool for prioritizing rail network alternatives in terms of achieving the most balanced territory, which is especially relevant in countries where HSR networks follow cohesion goals. Our results show that new HSR links should only be complementary to regional railway services, and that the suppression of secondary lines should be avoided if a reduction in polarization is to be achieved.