From a place point of view, a crucial difference between the three modes of transport is the location of their terminals. Most railway stations still tend to be where they were originally built. By now, however, they are immersed in a dense, functionally mixed and historically stratified urban fabric. In contrast, seaports have moved out of their original locations—in or adjacent to the city—and have become the focus of vast mono- or oligo-functional districts. Airports were mostly 'exurban' from the beginning. Yet the picture is all but static. New highspeed train stations are also being developed in peripheral locations (for instance, in the Paris metropolitan area). Airport areas may show the highest urbanization rates of an entire region, and seaports are evolving further into multifunctional complexes. Nevertheless, an important implication of these differences, which are still significant, is that the non-transport world (the 'city close by') tends to have a much stronger presence in railway stations than in seaports and airports. Not only are there more sorts of use and user; there are also more non-transportrelated activities and a more fragmented administrative context in the railway station areas. There, node jurisdiction (for example, by transport companies) and place jurisdiction (for example, by the municipality) overlap in particularly complex ways. Add to this the relative scarcity of land and the relatively limited endogenous transportation growth dynamics, and the framework is set for a very different sort of property development around stations. This is dominated by the negotiated renewal of the existing fabric, as opposed to greenfield airport and seaport developments under control of the port authority.

Nodes and place

All the features discussed above converge in determining distinct patterns of node-place interaction. In general, for railway stations the local dynamics and weak impacts prevail, while for airports and seaports regional dynamics and stronger impacts are more prevalent. An important distinction between airports and seaports should be made, however. The accent is on growth in the former, while the latter emphasizes more defensive, 'conservative' developments. Paradoxically, the less intense transformation dynamics of station areas are generally associated with a broader array of actors. Of course, here too some change is taking place. For instance, there is growing resistance to airport expansion among local residents and environmental organizations. The focus of policy and research reflects these contrasts in transport and spatial dynamics. With the possible exception of high-speed train (HST) stops, in the case of railway stations, the policy gives relatively more attention to positive environmental effects (limiting automobility, improving the urban environment) than to economic development (stimulation of the urban economy, diversification of activities and privatization of the railway company). For airports, politics and research are dominated by the issue of growth and its management. Managing growth is an exercise in the distribution of benefits and the mitigation of the adverse environmental effects. Also, for ports, economic development appears to be the core concern, albeit within the context of more limited growth dynamics. Thus the policy emphasis there seems to be on holding a competitive position rather than on accommo- dating growth.

Towards a conclusion

Node and place concepts are also useful in analysing the development potential of airports and seaports. A comparison—admittedly, more extensive than has been done here—with railway stations can contribute significantly to a further understanding of all three types of terminal separately, and perhaps even in combination. To provide a systematic overview of the similarities and differences Table 2.1 presents a summary of the characteristic features of each type of terminal.

The comparison shown, while stimulating, necessarily overlooks significant exceptions. At least four should be mentioned:

• Within each category there are important differences. Major 'railports' such as Utrecht CS in the Netherlands, Lille Flandres/Euralille in France or Hannover in Germany refer to a totally different order of issues than, say, submetropolitan commuter stations such as Didcot Parkway in the United Kingdom. The same could be said of airports (London Heathrow as opposed to Nice) and ports (Rotterdam as opposed to Trieste).

• Especially at the top end of the node hierarchy, there is an increasing blurring of differences. Though perhaps less obviously than for the previous point, complex intermodal interchanges are emerging through increasing interconnection of formerly separated transportation systems (a top priority of EU transport policy). Under these evolving conditions one transportation mode may dominate, but many others are represented. For instance, there are plans for high-speed rail/air combinations at Schiphol in the Netherlands and Frankfurt in Germany, while interconnection is already a fact at Paris-Roissy and Lyon-Satolas in France. This perspective makes definitions based on a conventional world of distinct mono-network nodes increasingly inadequate.

• Local situations may differ profoundly. For example, consider the different role in the urbanregional context, and the different hinterlands of ports such as Rotterdam and Genoa, of airports such as Frankfurt and Manchester, and of stations such as Utrecht and Lyon. In the case of stations, relative position in the city region may have fundamental implications, as in the distinction between metro-central interchanges (such as the Gare de Lyon-Austerlitz in Paris) and metro-peripheral interchanges (such as Massy in Paris).

• The picture is constantly evolving. For instance, ports were originally next to or close to urban centres. Since then, as we have seen, they have been moved further out, giving rise to distinct geographical entities. Urbanization of previously largely unbuilt airport areas is rapidly gaining momentum. Finally, while most railway stations still are in predominantly urban locations, there is a tendency, most notably in the Parisian region, for high-speed interchanges to be built in a peripheral, if not rural, location.

Some caution is thus required when generalizing about a node-place framework. Nonetheless, we still think it can generate fertile insights into the problems at hand. In considering railway stations, airports and seaports, planners are confronted with tasks that are both similar and different. In all three, a node and a place dynamic must be recognized, and node-place interactions must be dealt with. However, different transportation development trends,

Table 2.1 Summary of typical characteristics of railway stations, airports and seaports, following the node and place approach, with reference to the European context






Spatial reach from node

'Space-time compression' from node

Transport pattern

Modal choice at node

Accent on

Main accessory services at node

Transport unit cost

Management of node

Target market

Spatial constraints on transport development at node

Transport growth dynamics


Dominant scale: regional

From moderate to high

Polycentric distribution

Rigid network configuration


Dominant modes: train and local public transport

Main complementary modes: car, bicycle, foot


Passenger care

Lower middle

No separation between infrastructure and services

Monopolistic, subsidized regime (but changing)

Commuters (for work or study), city users (for shopping and/or entertainment), some types of long-distance business or pleasure traveller


Passenger: moderate (high external, low internal competition)

National-intercontinental Dominant scale: (inter)national

Very high

Concentration and diffusion (hub) Adaptable network configuration

National-intercontinental Dominant scale: (inter)continental

Concentration and diffusion (hub) Adaptable network configuration

Limited Very limited

Dominant mode: aeroplane Dominant mode: ship

Main complementary modes: car, train

Passengers and freight

Passenger care, and goods transfer and storage

Higher middle

Separation between infrastructure and services

Quasi-market regime, but presence of dominant operators and (hidden) subsidies

(International) business travellers and tourists; higher value per unit goods

Moderate, but growing

Passenger and freight: intense (high internal, low external competition)

Main complementary modes: truck, train, barge


Goods transfer and storage

Separation between infrastructure and services

Quasi-market regime, but presence of dominant operators and (hidden) subsidies

Lower value per unit goods

Moderate, but growing

Freight: middle (high internal, low external competition)


Typical location


Land consumption per unit Moderate transported

Extra-urban Very high

Extra-urban Very high

Feature Stations Airports Ports

Land use density




Variety of uses


Low, but growing


Dominant uses

Non-transport related

Transport related and non-transport related

Transport related

Dominant place-connected activities (thus excluding node operation)

Private and public services, shopping, hotel and restaurants, housing Business services growing

Business services, innovative (high-tech) industry, transport and distribution Hotel and congress growing

Transport and distribution, process industry (petrochemical, steel)

Variety of place users

Very high (anything from 'metropolitan businessmen' to the homeless)

Moderate, selected

Very limited





Land available for property development




Property development dynamics


Intense (under conditions)


Type of property development

Renewal of existing fabric

Greenfield development

Greenfield development


Node-place relationship

Local interaction, regional dependence

Local dominance, regional interaction

Local dominance, regional interaction

Economic impact of node

Weak, and local

High, and regional-national

High, but contrasted, and regional-national

Environmental impact of node

Moderate, and spatially limited

High, and extensive

High, and extensive

Density of actors

High, and fragmented

Moderate, and concentrated, but conflict is growing

Moderate, and concentrated

Administrative framework

Fragmentation of responsibilities

Autonomy, with restrictions: airport authority

Autonomy, with restriction: port authority

Policy context: 1. thematic focus

1. Environment (positive indirect effects)

1. Economic development (positive direct and indirect effects), environment (negative effects)

1. Economic development (positive and negative direct and indirect effects)

2. specific issues

2. Development of public transport, development of HST network, privatization of railway companies

2. Managing growth

2. Conserving competitive position, employment levels

Dominant research perspective

Transport and urban development

Economic impact; trade-offs between economy and environment

Technological change

different types of location, different scales of impact, and different constellations of actors involved have profound implications, as we shall see, on the sort of planning approach adopted.

Attributes of railway station areas cited in the previous pages will be reconsidered and detailed further throughout the analysis of the case studies. Basically, the unique challenge of the development of node-places is the need to deal, at the same time, with both transport and urban development issues. This entails inter alia two distinct and at least partly autonomous and often conflicting sorts of policies, markets, administrative and management structures, and technical domains. We shall see in detail how this fundamental ambiguity translates into a set of characteristic development dilemmas of railway station areas, for which analogies can also be drawn for airports and seaports. On the other hand, railway station areas are, at least in most of their present configurations, also different from the other two categories of node-place. Again, schematically, railway station areas are different in that they tend to have a much more articulated place dimension, whereas in airports and seaports the node dimension tends to dominate. While the picture may be evolving, and there are certainly exceptions, in most cases this implies that for station areas the leading, 'ordering' role of transport development is much less undisputed than in the other categories of node, and that, conversely, autonomous urban development trends have a much greater weight. As the cases in Part Two will document, this may open up unique opportunities for integration between the two orders of development, but can also result in problematic stalemates, as one may impede the other.

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