Railway station area redevelopment is becoming increasingly important throughout Europe. The borders of nation states are decreasingly important where economic mobility is concerned. Within the European Union, an open market is taking shape in which the freedom to transport goods, investment capital and business is more or less guaranteed. As a result, the meaning of distance between major railway station areas in Europe is becoming relative. In turn, this development implies an increase in competition between railway station areas within each nation state. But in the near future there will also be competition between station areas in Europe. When it comes to planning the redevelopment of railway station areas, factors of accessibility (by road, rail or water) no longer suffice. Other factors, such as social, cultural and environmental qualities must also be considered (Porter, 1990). Railway station area development as a planning problem is becoming increasingly complex as the number of relevant factors increases, the patterns of activities in the same area increase, and the existing physical surroundings have to be redeveloped. This is the reality for many railway station areas throughout Europe.
The actual picture is even more complex. It should be recognized that the decision-making process in combination with the actual implementation of redevelopment takes a long period. A time frame of 10 years or longer is common. As dependence on the willingness of actors to participate grows, the redevelopment process becomes more intricate. Another complicating factor is the fact that an increase of activities within a relatively small area generates inconvenience and impediments. Moreover, it poses a threat to the immediate environment. As both the population and the legislative bodies become more aware of these problems, new rules and regulations regarding the environment also tend to complicate the process of planning railway station areas. All this exacerbates the controversial nature of railway station area redevelopment as a planning problem.
With reference to the planning triangle sketched in the first chapter, in addition to the process of development and the ambivalence of the station area itself, its institutional setting is of utmost importance to an understanding of the ongoing development. By including the institutional context in the analysis, we see that each development process has common elements (convergence) as well as elements that are very specific to the railway station in question (divergence). More specifically, some of the latter elements can be explained by referring to the structural and cultural characteristics of the country and municipality involved. The political climate at the local level as well as at the national level is particularly important when trying to understand and explain the redevelopment processes of railway station areas.
There are at least three ways in which one can study the interrelationship between the context of development and the development itself (Hoogerwerf, 1995, pp. 253-256). The first perspective is an organizational point of view; the second perspective is derived from actors acting in networks; the third and last one is the institutional point of view.
• In organizational sciences, one tries to analyse development processes by studying the behaviour of the participating organizations. Organizations react to each other, but they also develop internal characteristics. The latter can be dominated by cultural or social elements. Against the background of these characteristics, the interaction of organizations is studied as part of the development process. The analysis carried out from this perspective takes place at an aggregated level (the organization). In contrast, in the next perspective, the level of analysis shifts to a lower level: the individual within the organization.
• Within the networks perspective, the analysis focuses on actors interacting with one another in more or less permanent patterns. The patterns themselves are determined by a mix of variables: these include the interests of the organization, plus social and cultural factors, but also a personal interpretation of the actors' position. From this perspective, the key words in the analysis are power, flows of information, goals and objectives, and relation patterns.
• Third is the institutional perspective. Although this is rooted in a long of legal-historical research, it received renewed attention during the 1990s, sometimes referred to as neo-institutionalism. This perspective tries to explain spatial developments by referring to institutions within the context of each particular spatial project Institutions are defined as common denominators for structural relations or developments of interactions among the actors involved. Essentially, this perspective is based on the same frame of reference as economic choice theory. The common denominators are not only to be found in rules and legislation. They are also—and especially—found in unwritten codes of behaviour, tradition, and cultural aspects within or between organizations. Therefore neo-institutionalism can be viewed as an extension of economic choice theory. All the relevant advantages and disadvantages of this theory also apply to an institutional approach.
An adequate analysis of complex planning problems such as the redevelopment of railway station areas would have to take aspects of all three perspectives into account. With reference to the planning triangle mentioned earlier (section 1.1), context variables (institutional arrangements and developments) ought to be combined with process variables (actors and organizations) and object variables (the node and place dimensions of station areas). Although each of the perspectives mentioned can provide relevant insights, it is important to construct a balanced model for analysis in which all three aspects of the planning triangle are given due credit. The actual analysis of railway station area redevelopment has to take place in three steps. The first step is to formulate a frame of reference in terms of the institutional arrangements (context) and their history, the relevant actors (process), and the actual situation
(object). A static picture is thus obtained. In the second step, the picture is set in motion, and ongoing developments are described. Finally, in the third step the whole process is analysed. It may be expected that the differences between case studies are huge in each step (divergence). In order to overcome these differences a more or less general frame of reference has to be developed. This will take shape in the three steps mentioned above. Therefore, in the next sections the three steps will be elaborated in a general sense (convergence).
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