Implications for station area development

What are the implications of all this for station areas? The argument of the preceding sections can be summarized as follows. If a series of conditions is realized, including the internalization of the social and environmental costs of travel, adequate investment in rail infrastructure, and appropriate land-use planning, then railway traffic might be expected to grow, albeit moderately, and at least retain its share of the market. The impact of even just holding its own in an already saturated railway station infrastructure would still be significant in absolute terms. For example, according to Cornet's (1993) low-growth scenario (without a European highspeed network), the absolute growth of long-distance traffic in the period 1988-2010 would still be by a factor of 148 (1988=100). His high-growth scenario would mean almost a doubling of the total number of transported passengers. Furthermore, the impact of any growth will in all likelihood be unevenly spread. Most demand would be concentrated at peak times in centrally located terminals with already severe spatial constraints. The pressure that growth of any order of magnitude would place on the existing capacity is thus enormous, just as the required investment would be. In the Netherlands, for instance, in order to achieve the goal of doubling rail traffic between the years 1995 and 2010 an investment plan of 8.7 billion ECU has been deemed necessary. At 3.1 million ECU per kilometre of rail, this is far above what is envisaged in most other European countries (Rail Business Report, 1994).

Equally important are the qualitative implications of the contextual factors sketched in the preceding pages. The essential condition for growth of rail transport is intermodal integration. From a qualitative point of view, a railway station's essential feature thus appears to be its function as an intermodal interchange, rather than as a 'place where trains arrive and depart'. The railway station is to be seen, as Amar (1996) suggests, as an urban exchange complex. What does this mean in practice? Railway stations have traditionally been important transport connection points. But until now they have also tended to remain a juxtaposition of separate elements (for example, a train station, a metro station, a bus station, a taxi stand, parking, shopping and information facilities) rather than becoming an integrated whole (an interchange). The railway station has to offer full connectivity in both the hard sense—the infrastructure—and the soft sense —the services. The passenger will evaluate and choose on the basis of the full travel experience —the door-to-door trip—including travelling conveniently, changing from one system to another, and making use of accessory services.

All this places severe demands not just on the physical structures but also on the organization. Integration involves many different actors in a unified terminal management. Experiences in Paris, as at La Défense and Gare du Nord, appear to be leading the way in Europe (Amar, 1996). Outside Europe, the vertical integration of railway and other operations in Japan could provide food for thought. In most cases the required transformation would be a matter of (re)ordering the existing elements, and of dealing with continuous change, rather than of creating something from scratch. In the process, a railway station turns into a place to be, not just a place to pass through. This outlook leads towards the next section, which treats the property development perspective.

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