Social Exclusion and High-Speed Railways: Evidence from China

Labib Azzouz1, *, Anson Jack2
1 Transport Studies Unit, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
2 Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom

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© 2021 Azzouz and Jack.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Transport Studies Unit, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom; Tel: +447741934180; E-mail:



Despite their economic, social, and environmental advantages, HSRs are associated with some negative social impacts and controversy about their equitability.


Very few studies have explored the relationship between HSR and social exclusion.


This paper examines the relationship between HSR and social exclusion, and it focuses on China as a case study.


The objectives of the study are as follows; to identify the most important and favourable factors for choosing HSR from passengers' perspective; to reveal issues and reasons that inhibit passengers from using HSR and limit their accessibility to the service, and to propose some solutions and interventions.


The study utilizes an online survey comprising a set of stated preference and revealed preference questions. A total of 3655 responses were collected, of which 3353 responses were complete and useful.


A key finding is that comfort is proven to be the most favourable factor for using HSR, followed by travel time and reliability. Another finding is that the economic exclusion followed by the geographical exclusion is prevailing across different age and monthly income groups of non-HSR users. Those who have the lowest income and the elderly experience the strongest levels of economic exclusion. Moreover, physical, time-based, and fear-based exclusions are also notable.


To create a modal shift from other modes to HSR and allow more groups to access the service, HSR should be competitive in terms of affordability and accessibility. Possible solutions and policy interventions that may help to tackle categories of social exclusion in China are presented.

Keywords: Social sustainability, Social exclusion, Social equity, High-speed railways, Transport equitability, Inclusion interventions.