Environmental risks of high-speed railway in China: Public participation, perception and trust

G. He*, A.P.J. Mol, L. Zhang, Y. Lu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


Two decades ago China entered an era with rapid expansion of transport infrastructure. In an ambitious plan on high-speed railway development, China plans to have the longest high-speed railway network by 2020. Social concerns and anxiety with the adverse environmental and social risks and impacts of high-speed railways are related to the lay-out, the construction and the daily operation of high-speed trains. While anecdotal evidence of concerns and anxieties of Chinese citizens on high-speed railway systems exist, systematic assessment of concerns, anxieties, protests and support of Chinese citizens regarding the planning, implementation and daily operation of high-speed railways is absent. This study investigated high-speed railway related public views, risk perceptions and trust of Chinese residents living along the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway. The results show high public acceptance in high-speed railway, due to perceived low environmental and social risk and high economic and social benefits. The current closed, government-dominated decision-making, opaque information provisioning, and lack of communication with and involvement of residents cause low levels of trust in railway-related local governmental agencies and companies. The increasing ‘room for manoeuvre’ of China¿s civil society may increase information disclosure and transparency, two-way risk communication and public participation in future large infrastructure development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-52
JournalEnvironmental Development
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Beijing-Shanghai railway
  • Government
  • Risk communication
  • Transparency


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