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Transport development

The financing for the design and planning work that precedes the CTRL has been provided by shareholders of the winning private consortium L&C and a group of banks. The private share of the financing for the construction will consist of a stock market flotation and cashflow from Eurostar (UK), the subsidiary operating HST services between London and the Continent. London & Continental Railways (LCR) and its subsidiaries will be fully responsible for the construction and the commercial risks. Some well-defined exceptions are specified; in these instances, the government will be exclusively or partially responsible. Furthermore, the government's financial contribution will 'be reduced in the event of LCR achieving a high level of profit from the development of lands, principally at King's Cross and Stratford, which are to be transferred to them.'

LCR has a number of subsidiaries:

• Eurostar (UK), operator of cross-Channel HST services in conjunction with the Belgian and French railways (a seemingly booming business, also thanks to a massive marketing campaign: the number of passengers went up to 6.4 million per year, from 3.9 million per year in the 12 months prior to August 1996);

• Union Railways, developing the CTRL;

• L&C Engineering, designing and planning the CTRL (actual construction contracts will be competitively tendered);

• L&CR Pathways, the firm that will manage the line when ready;

• L&C Stations & Property, which 'will manage the acquisition of the land required for the CTRL and the disposal of surplus land, and manage all the group's property assets including stations. Working in close cooperation with the local authorities, other landowners and development agencies it will unlock the regeneration benefits of the CTRL and its new stations, particularly around Stratford, the Thames Gateway and St Pancras.' (From London & Continental brochure).

Finally, an overview of the main structural data is given in Table 9.3.

Table9.3 King's Cross railway lands: main structural data

Surface area

Railway lands: 58.7 ha

SRB area: around 3 square miles (780 ha)

Area ownership

Railway lands: mostly London & Continental and National Freight Corporation, then Railtrack and Borough of Camden

SRB area: various additional, P&O a main one

Costs

Offices, houses, shops, hotel and congress, etc.

Functional mix and quantities being defined/negotiated (a 'potential for 200 000 m2 of commercial development' exists in the SRB area)

£3 billion (total CTRL, around 50% public)

£249 million (expected seven-year investment in the SRB area, 32% public, 68% private)

King's Cross railway lands: evaluation

The redevelopment of the King's Cross railway lands has been characterized by particularly high instability. This has been true for the planning stages, and will in all likelihood remain true for the implementation stages. What can we learn from this case?

First, we see the importance of the change in approach between the first and second rounds and between the first and second waves. Together, the new framework that is emerging appears much better suited to the complex interrelationships between node and place dynamics in the King's Cross situation. Shifts in context (in the property market, for example, or in decisions concerning the main infrastructure) had here a decisive role, but not an exclusive one. Local agents were also important. The changes manifested themselves as follows:

• from essentially property led (BR looking for profits to balance its budget) to essentially transport led (LCR commercially developing a high-speed railway link and accessory facilities);

• from a contract between BR (a transport company) and LRC (a property developer), with LRC taking the initiative, to an ad hoc transport company integrating property interests for the CTRL (LCR), next to more conventional land and infrastructure owners and users;

• from land-use negotiations in a local arena and a parallel debate on the transport component in a national arena, to a parliamentary Act providing a firm foundation and simplified procedures for the infrastructure works and a weak partnership structure (KCP) for the property development and urban regeneration components.

A second observation concerns the line-up of actors. As the process proceeded and it moved ahead slowly—the interests of the actors shifted. Accordingly, new proposals—enticing though they might be—delayed the development process further. This may be interpreted as a negative aspect of the development process, as delays accumulated. Yet at the same time the actors were engaged in a learning process. In that way the basic issues in the project could be better understood and eventually dealt with. It can be concluded that all of the actors have learnt a great deal, and a common vision might be finally emerging, though at a very high price (for example, in terms of dereliction in the area due to uncertainties, and in terms of waste of resources on all sides). But given the institutional context, perhaps there was no other way to proceed.

There are still some crucial unanswered questions: how to balance in time infrastructure works (which have not wholly secured funding yet) and property development/urban regeneration? how to balance in space more profitable and less profitable uses? how to achieve a consensus on the 'right' mix of functions, and—most importantly—fund it?

The absence of a basis for a strong plan opened up the possibility of a rolling agenda. Proposals could easily be amended, new proposals introduced, and redundant proposals withdrawn. This mechanism brought increased flexibility into the development programme, but at the same time it led to greater uncertainty among the participants—a situation that is not entirely overcome. The comparatively unique way in which the process unfolded has to do with the specific character of the UK planning system in combination with specific developments in King's Cross. Looking at the future, it could point at possible weaknesses in the now established project-institutional framework. The KCP may be said to be too informal. Its organizational structure is weak (because of factors such as its time limits, and the accountability to multiple constituencies). Its partners are unequal in strength, giving private actors a dominant position. All this leads to the crucial issue: will the KCP be capable of steering through answers to the 'still unanswered questions' mentioned above?

A third observation deals with the node-place concept. Extensive infrastructure works at King's Cross-St Pancras include: refurbishing and extending the St Pancras train shed; making new track connections from St Pancras to the East Coast main line, the Midlands main line, and the West Coast main line; enabling works for a new underground Thameslink station and a track connection to the Great Northern Line; realigning roads; and making utility diversions. London Underground will upgrade its facilities and connections to the terminus. The Channel Tunnel rail terminal will serve as a focal point for urban regeneration, including projects funded from the government's Single Regeneration Budget. In the past, the degree of entanglement between developments in the node and the place impeded progress of the initiative. Now, paradoxically, coordination in the place and autonomy of the node are sought at the same time. The KCP is a promising but rather weak instrument for achieving a higher level of coordination. On the other side, the CTRL Act strongly guarantees the autonomy of the transport developer. For instance, and typically, while the contractor will endeavour to adopt solutions that would reduce the adverse environmental impacts, the local authorities shall 'have regard to construction costs and programme implications and shall not seek to impose unreasonably stringent standards in respect of land use, planning, design or environmental matters'. True, all participants have a stake in ensuring that the project will be a success. Ultimately, both their collective and individual image depends on this. But will such a 'soft' binding factor be enough?

Part Three Conclusions

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