Connecting the periphery: distributive effects of new infrastructure
Studies addressing the spatial economic development effects of infrastructure generally focus on estimating generative effects at aggregated spatial scales. However, such effects may often hide a distributive effect, which occurs when one part of a region grows faster or at the expense of another part. This paper distinguishes distributive accessibility effects and distributive centre–periphery effects. The pattern of such distributive effects is explored for the new (2003) tunnel under the Westerschelde estuary in the Netherlands, which links a central region with a peripheral region. The tunnel led to dramatic changes in accessibility since it replaced car ferries that operated at quite a distance from the tunnel. Our ex-post analyses explore whether employment and population have redistributed following the opening of the tunnel. Increased accessibility led to employment decline in the centre, and to slight growth in the periphery. In particular, the tunnel enabled a process of rationalization of employment in the non-commercial services sector. For population, we found that the new fixed link led to stronger population growth in the centre. Especially people aged 20–40 moved out of the periphery. Within the periphery, households with children relocated from areas that had become relatively less accessible to areas that had become more accessible. Hence, our study emphasizes the importance of geographical, sectoral and demographic detail in studies of the social and economic impacts of transport infrastructure. âº New infrastructure between centre and periphery leads to distributive effects. âº Distributive effects vary per employment sector and population age group. âº Improved accessibility fosters a rationalization process of non-commercial services. âº New infrastructure has had more impacts on younger households and families.