The redevelopment of railway station areas its urgency and complexity

As shown in Part One, an adequate analysis of complex planning problems such as the redevelopment of railway station areas would have to take all three aspects of the planning triangle (sections 1.1 and 4.1) into account. In this view, context variables (institutional arrangements and developments) ought to be combined with process variables (actors and organizations) and object variables (the node and place dimensions).

In principle, the starting point of analysis should be the railway station area itself, the object of redevelopment. However, as the pressure for transformation is fuelled by developments in the wider context, that wider field becomes so predominant that it should be considered first. Analysis of the redevelopment process becomes important at a later stage. Context variables show their relevance, as much of the variety in outcomes can be explained by referring to these variables, either in the direct context (the national planning system, or changes in transport policy, for example) or in the wider context (technological developments, economic developments, etc.).

Each railway station area redevelopment initiative can be seen as part of wider processes. These processes determine the urgency of the initiative. Throughout the discussion of the cases, we have seen those driving forces in action, each time in a different combination. This combination of forces makes the task a complex one. The complexity is enhanced when factors become obscure in the course of the process, as both realities and their perceptions change. As a result, decisions have to be made under conditions of limited knowledge and high uncertainty. A basic objective of this study is to shed some light on this complexity, and at least to make the observer aware of it, so that decisions can be taken in a more informed manner. With this goal in mind, a selected number of factors fuelling railway station area redevelopment will be highlighted. These factors, as they are encountered in the case studies, will be the subject of our discussion here.

• Environmental (that is, promoting public transport use) and local economic development policies are the driving forces behind many plans discussed here. Increasingly, these appear to be the two policy discourses shaping the debate on station area redevelopment. However, the two are not equal in strength. While there are differences, the economic argument tends to dominate. There is also a third policy discourse, which could be labelled civic design or urban upgrading: for example, healing the urban fabric, removing physical barriers, integrating railway station and neighbourhood, providing more liveable public spaces, or making the area a part of the city. However, it appears to be subordinate to the first two, of which it is merely an instrument. This construction (economic argument as dominant, environmental argument as supportive, civic design/urban upgrading as tool) can be most clearly observed in the two Dutch cases and in Basel. In the other cases, the policy balance was rather different. In Euralille, for instance, the economic argument appears to be far more important. Stockholm—after a more opportunistic start—seems to be going in a similar direction. Intriguingly, in Zürich Nord, civic design and urban upgrading, or 'city-building', issues carry more weight than elsewhere, and economic and environmental arguments seem more instrumental. Furthermore, economic, environmental or even civic design arguments appear to be rather abstract policy attributes, as they can be given significantly different accents. The King's Cross story, for instance, shows particularly well how there might be quite different views of what local economic development is, and of what actions it requires.

• Positive and negative technological changes shape the opportunities but also increase the number of constraints on railway station area redevelopment. A location at the crossroads of the north European HST network in Lille triggered the whole urban development operation there. Massive national and regional investment programmes in rail infrastructure are the essential conditions that make ambitious projects thinkable, as demonstrated by the Utrecht Centrum Project and the Zuidas in the Netherlands, and EuroVille in Switzerland. Centrality in the new S-Bahn network is a basic condition of the Zentrum Zürich Nord plan. Besides opportunities, the largely autonomous dynamics of infrastructure development also shape the basic constraints to property development. For instance, no development was possible in King's Cross until there was clarity on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. The physical and organizational coordination of transport and property transformations may be seen as a crucial condition, as shown by the examples of Lille, Stockholm, Amsterdam, and possibly Utrecht. An alternative strategy is to keep the two orders of development separate from each other, as in Basel, Zürich, and now seemingly in King's Cross.

• Reorganization of the national railway companies has an impact on all the examples analysed here. The indefinite status of the privatization process means that a vital actor may radically, often destructively, change its role and perspective in the course of the process. Some stability in the institutional status of the railways appears to be an absolute precondition for station area redevelopment processes, perhaps even more crucial than the sort of organizational structure arrived at. This was particularly evident in the King's Cross case, but also in Utrecht. On the other hand, in Stockholm the horizontally integrated development strategy of a privatized railway company is a fundamental force driving the project. The same situation could be emerging in both the Dutch cases and in King's Cross. In this respect, the role of the SNCF in France appears to be much less significant. Switzerland offers a contrasting picture, with an integrated railway company logic possibly emerging in Basel but as yet absent in Zürich.

• Property market cycles are an essential explanation in the vicissitudes of the King's Cross and Stockholm development processes. In the first phase of King's Cross they were an outright driving factor. In all other cases, the property market is seen as a condition of implementation rather than as a compelling factor. This may reflect an emerging trend, as a property-led perspective is also being abandoned in London. This does not mean, however, a decrease in the weight of property markets. Fiscal austerity implies that private resources are needed. This need influences the definition of the functional programme. Accordingly, financial feasibility studies are becoming an increasingly crucial tool (possibly the most crucial one) when putting together a functional programme. This is a very clear message, emerging from all seven cases. • Internationalization and metropolitanization form the context of several of the arguments supporting the initiatives discussed in this book. In particular, where local economic development discourses dominate, these are typically set in the context of the competition of locations within a globalizing economy. Interestingly, governments continue pursuing a policy of big urban projects even though evidence of the benefits is lacking, while the costs are increasingly evident. Also, the content of the project tends to show little imagination, as international business centres are being conjugated in all possible ways. City marketing considerations of this kind are an essential factor of the station area initiatives in Lille, Utrecht, Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Basel. A more original approach might be emerging in Zentrum Zürich Nord, where the holistic quality of the station area as an attractive place for different sorts of people, firms and activities is seen as the essential competitive asset. In King's Cross, public policy has been less proactive and more subordinate to other forces than in other cases. More recently, however, a division of tasks between a private railway company essentially pursuing transport development objectives and a public-private-community partnership pursuing local regeneration objectives might have shaped the conditions for more innovative programmes.

Together, these factors fuel railway station redevelopment. However, their influence may differ in time and per location. Within each case study, elements of these factors can be observed, either contributing to a successful redevelopment process or increasing its complexity and impeding it. With reference to the inherent complex structure of the redevelopment of railway station areas, the latter is the most likely scenario. Chapter 4 showed that contextual factors emphasize both the differences between railway station areas in Europe (divergence) and the similarities (convergence). As the external pressures grow from a wider context—as might be expected in an 'open' Europe, where internationalization becomes more and more important—the latter gains in importance as well. Study of the redevelopment processes of railway station areas in Europe teaches us that converging processes culminate in similar dilemmas. It is precisely at this point that we can learn from each other. The next section deals with the main dilemmas as analysed in the case studies.

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