Will the Development of a High-Speed Railway Have Impacts on Land Use Patterns in China?

In the past fifteen years, the high-speed railway (HSR) network in China has experienced unprecedented rapid growth. The development of the HSR has profound impacts in terms of redistributing accessibility in space and affecting the travel behaviors of people. The impacts of HSR development on the land use system have not been well investigated, however, because of the lack of large-scale, high-resolution land use data. Hence, this is the first time that impacts of the construction of the HSR network in China on the land use patterns at the national level are examined using high-resolution satellite land use data. In detail, a difference-in-differences model was used to evaluate the impacts of the HSR network on different landscape metrics in three land use categories: urban land, agricultural land, and natural land. We also compared the differences in land use transformations between HSR and non-HSR cities over three periods: 2005 to 2008, 2008 to 2010, and 2010 to 2013. The analysis yields the following findings: (1) for urban land, the HSR had no universal effect on the absolute size (quantity) of urban land but had a negative effect on the mean patch size (MPS) in matched samples, and regional and network endowments might lead to various effects in different regions; (2) HSR could have a negative effect on the absolute size of agricultural land, especially in the west; and (3) for natural land, patches in HSR cities tended to aggregate and regularize, whereas in non-HSR cities natural land continued to be fragmented and consumed.