Railway station areas are nodes and places. Fundamental to the analysis of their redevelopment is a view of the bigger picture. The individual features of the node and place components of a location must be understood in their reciprocal interactions. This is shown in graphic form in Figure 2.3.

Fig. 2.3 The station as node and place.

What, more specifically, does being a node-place entail? And how do railway stations distinguish themselves from other sorts of node-place? To answer these questions, in the following pages we shall compare railway stations with two other great families of node-place: airports and seaports. The comparison will be a qualitative and largely intuitive one. It will also deal in the first instance with 'ideal typical' examples of each of the three categories, and refer—quite statically—to the situation now. Yet we believe it helps us to focus on the kinds of variable referred to by terms such as 'node' and 'place'. The comparison will also help to outline some of the key issues raised by nodes-places as development objects, and by railway station locations in particular.

What do seaports, airports and railway stations ('railports') have in common? What are some of the more obvious and less obvious differences? And what implications do these differences have for their development? To make the above definitions and statements more concrete, and to introduce the analysis, these points are dealt with in the following sections, with reference to the European context. By comparing railway stations with seaports and airports, we can shed some light on their differences and similarities. In that way we can better appreciate their specific development potentials.

Not only seaports, but also railway stations and airports were initially built as nodes in a specific transportation network: waterways, railways and flight routes respectively.

Increasingly, they are also becoming nodes in complementary transportation networks: the nodes are turning into multimodal interchanges of passengers and/or goods flows. But in addition to their nodal function, they are also places: they all occupy a particular space. This aspect is evoked, for instance, by terms such as harbour district, airport city, or station neighbourhood. And all three names reflect a particular kind of interaction with the area, the direct surroundings and the urban region in which these modes are located. Thus, in addition to a node dimension, they all have a place dimension. From a transport and urban development perspective, relationships between these two dimensions are particularly important. In this light, the opening questions could thus be rephrased: What are—ideally-typically—the similarities and the differences between seaports, airports and railway stations as nodes, as places, and as interacting nodes and places?

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