Context railway station area redevelopment in Sweden

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The main players in railway station area redevelopment in Sweden are the national railway company (SJ) and the municipalities. In this respect, Sweden does not differ much from the other countries in Europe. However, the leading role taken by the railways, following a consistent national programme and approach, is comparatively striking. SJ is ahead of most of its European counter-parts with regard to the way of restructuring, and its market orientation. Since SJ was privatized in 1988, it has successfully introduced its own version of the high-speed train (HST), the X 2000. Furthermore, it has been able to gain market share in the face of dwindling subsidies and growing competition. In the process, it has become one of the most productive railways in Europe (Railway Gazette International, 1994; De Volkskrant, 1996). However, SJ has been pursuing a rather different model than the radical fragmentation that has been most notably applied in the UK. Integration and coordination among the different business units, including a newly founded property division, appear to be (still) high.

The real estate division of the Swedish railways was created in 1988, as a spin-off from the privatization policy. Its core business is the redevelopment of land holdings at stations in central locations. Property development has two main functions: it is a potentially important resource in financing investment, and it provides the chance to make stations centres of urban activity once more. The first, largely completed, step in this direction was the Station Environment Programme, a massive investment entailing the refurbishment and modernization of some 100 stations. The second, current stage is the Travel Centres Programme, which forms the core of SJ's property development strategy. The aim of the programme is to turn stations into complete, modern travel centres at locations where train travel has potential. From a comparative European perspective, it is particularly important to underline the strong guiding role of this transport-centred concept. It applies to the whole development strategy of railway station areas in Sweden. Thus it also includes the land not directly required for transport-related uses; compare, for instance, the very different guiding philosophy in London during the 1980s, sketched below in Chapter 9.

The municipality is seen by SJ as the most important partner when developing a travel centre. Accordingly, travel centres and the surrounding areas are being developed in close cooperation between the railways and the municipalities concerned. At present, about 50 plans for railway station areas in Sweden are at different stages of development (Figure 7.1). As of 1996, cooperation agreements with the local authority had been signed in 25 municipalities; in

Fig. 7.1 National railway network and travel centres in Sweden.

another 20, negotiations were in progress. Travel centres in connection with property development have been implemented in Ange and Nässjö. Similar projects are being developed in Skövde, Södertalje, Linköping, and Hässleholm, while negotiations in Göteborg, Malmö, and Västeräs are at an advanced stage. The development at Stockholm Central station, while having been initiated before the official launching of the Travel Centres Programme, is a telling example of both the Swedish approach to station area redevelopment and its evolution through time. In many ways, it can be said to have been, and to continue to be, a test case for SJ property strategies. SJ expects that the whole travel centres programme will run on into the first years of the second millennium before it is completed, but there are uncertainties. Since the property boom went bust, and throughout the present period of recovery, SJ and the municipality have had to adopt a more proactive stance, taking on some of the initiative previously left to market actors. On the other hand, even in the midst of the property crisis, the real estate division of SJ was one of the few property companies in Sweden with confidence in the future: 'It is the sheer location of these properties and the renovation of the railway system that makes SJ's properties so attractive for investors' (Sweden Today, 1994).

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