Context railway station area redevelopment in the UK

Until recently, railway station area redevelopment has been largely restricted to London. Of course, there have been some developments in railway station areas elsewhere, such as at Bristol Parkway, and new plans have been recently launched at Leeds City station. Yet almost all the projects undertaken over the last 20 years have been in London, and most of those have been in central London (Figure 9.1). A literature survey carried out in 1996 (Bertolini and Spit, 1996) identified 16 station projects in the UK, 15 of which were in the London region and 13 in central London. This is no coincidence. As opposed to the other European countries studied here, apparently Britain has had no clear overarching framework at the national level to integrate, at least conceptually, individual initiatives. There was no plan for expansion of a national HST network, as in France. There were no national or regional policies promoting development at public transport interchanges, as in the Netherlands and Switzerland. And there was no national integrated transport and property strategy of the railway company, as in Sweden. Furthermore, the role of local authorities seems much more limited than elsewhere. They have been either abolished (as with metropolitan bodies) or seriously weakened (as with boroughs and towns) by the Conservative government.

In this context, two distinct rationales have been fuelling most of the railway station redevelopment plans that have been carried out in Britain thus far. One rationale is expressed in the evolution of British Rail (BR). BR started searching much more explicitly and much earlier than its European counterparts for complementary revenues—most notably property— to finance operational investments or just to improve the balance sheet. This is a trend that was already set in 1978 by the imposition of external financing limits on BR. Those limits were set by the then Labour government, and further reinforced in the Thatcher years (Olsberg, 1990). A second rationale is expressed in the initiatives of 'venture' developers. These innovative

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Ebbsfleet \

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Existing HST services on conventional tracks

Planned HST services —'on conventional tracks

Channel Tunnel

- Intercity and selected regional services

Station area projects

(in different phases Ol development)


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Fig. 9.1 Present and future railway network in the South-East of England and main station area -projects.

Fig. 9.1 Present and future railway network in the South-East of England and main station area -projects.

entrepreneurs were looking for opportunities that would arise as soon as railway lands and station air rights were released and put on the property market. A typical example of this last group is Rosehaugh Stanhope Developments plc. This is the company that developed several of central London's stations (including Broadgate/Liverpool Street and Ludgate), and was for some time involved in King's Cross.

The interaction between the strategies of these two actors has largely determined where, when and how railway stations have been developed in Britain. And this has essentially meant:

• on railway lands or station air rights in or adjoining the City of London;

• during the financial and property markets booms of the 1980s;

• as office-only complexes.

The list of implemented schemes that fit this profile includes locations at several London stations: Blackfriars, Cannon Street, Charing Cross, Fenchurch Street, Liverpool Street, Ludgate, and Victoria. In many cases (most strikingly in the Broadgate/Liverpool Street station development), the transformation has been massive and spectacular. BR has taken a generous share of the profits. In the period 1970-1989, for instance, its property division, the British Rail

Property Board (BRPB), contributed £1.6 billion to BR finances. This injection accounts for £323 million, or 11% of BR turnover (which was more than its total profit), in its record financial year 1989/90 (Edwards, 1991). In all the examples cited above, BR and the developers were the ones taking the initiative. Apparently, the only contribution the local authority could make was to obtain, in exchange for planning permission, as much benefit for the local community—or planning gain - as possible.

In the past few years, this philosophy has been wearing thin. In particular, since the property market crash the wisdom of pursuing this approach has been questioned (see, for instance, London Planning Advisory Committee, 1993). Change might be afoot, as recent proposals for King's Cross-St Pancras, Stratford and Ebbsfleet suggest. These three sites can be seen as crucial test cases. Unlike many central London railway station location redevelopments in the 1980s, the development of these three areas cannot be reduced to a mere real estate operation. The plan to put in Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) interchanges at these locations (Figure 9.1) means that a much wider approach is needed, one dealing with both urban and transport complex, tangled development issues.

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