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Institutional change

While there is an evolution in the roles of all public and private actors, the most striking and relevant changes are those occurring to the railway companies, as captured by the term privatization. The railways are of course key actors in station area redevelopment. Their privatization (however that term is interpreted) has far-reaching implications for the nature of the initiative. In some cases, this might be the one factor that actually triggers a plan. Privatization, however, is an open-ended process rather than a definite state, and it means different things in different countries. Among the cases analysed, it is most advanced and carries the most weight in the United Kingdom and Sweden. There, however, two very different approaches are being pursued, as we shall see. Commercialization plays an increasingly critical role in Switzerland, where its implications are nevertheless still ambiguous. But it also plays a pivotal role in the Netherlands, where it helps to distinguish a first generation of plans from an incipient second generation of station plans. Privatization is the least advanced in France.

The property cycle

Property booms are partly autonomous and partly related to an explosion in office demand at certain locations and times. Their incidence is also a factor in station area redevelopment. Real estate market cycles have had a compelling influence rather than just a contextual relevance in most London station projects. When the boom turned to bust, the market was a decisive factor in the failure of initiatives such as that taken by the London Regeneration Consortium for King's Cross. In Sweden the collapse of the property market first led to a standstill. Then it prompted a different approach to station area redevelopment, one that is demand driven rather than supply driven. A similar move in Switzerland distinguishes initiatives such as Zentrum Zürich Nord or Basel EuroVille from the 'outdated' Zürich HauptBahnhof Süd West. Anticipating this reorientation, the market in France and the Netherlands appears to have had a deflating rather than an inflating effect on station projects. There, developers and investors alike have been urging caution and raising doubts about the expectations of 'entrepreneurial' municipalities.

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