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Internationalization and metropolitanization

The internationalization of the economy is imposing the need for far-reaching restructuring in the urban fabric of western Europe. Urban economies are undergoing a process of spatial expansion, functional 'sorting-out' and division of tasks on a regional scale (Louter, 1996). A space of flows, where specialized and integrated clusters of activities are interconnected both within and outside urban regions, is being superimposed on a historical, weakening space of places (Castells, 1989). Station areas are potential nodes in emerging transport and information networks (Bertolini, 1996a, 1996b). An awareness of this possibility and of its implications is beginning to surface in the approach to station area redevelopment across Europe. The initiatives of several cities in France, and most notably of Lille, point in this direction. However, too many unverified assumptions still underpin most strategies there. The debate on the potential roles of station areas as transport and information gateways within multicentred urban regions in a global context is gaining momentum elsewhere too, particularly in the Netherlands and Switzerland. Although the direction is somewhat ambiguous in the other countries, the potential role as a gateway could indeed become the main criterion by which to appraise station area redevelopment initiatives in the future.

The station area redevelopment plans peculiar to each country reflect distinct combinations of the factors described above. However, common trends are also arising and, most interestingly, might become stronger in the future. European integration is of course a very important factor in this regard. From the point of view of transformation at stations, the leading role of the European Commission in the privatization of national railways is particularly important. Its standpoint is formulated in Directive 91 /440. Also important is the Union's support for rail transport in general and for the development of a European HST network in particular. For instance, of the 14 links envisaged within the framework of the Trans-European Networks (TEN) programme, nine are rail links. On the other hand, all the evidence presented in the case studies suggests that local and national institutional and policy contexts will continue to be very important in determining how European and 'global' factors will translate in specific cases. Especially interesting is the diversity of responses to the largely similar challenges raised by station area redevelopment, as discussed further on in the book.

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