On April 23rd, Future of London launched Crossrail as Catalyst at the King’s Fund. This new report examines how London communities can grasp the regeneration and development potential of Crossrail stations – and of future infrastructure projects.
As with any major infrastructure project, part of Crossrail’s promise has been to generate or enhance economic opportunity in the areas it touches, particularly through regeneration around stations. And as with previous rail projects in and around the Capital, results – at least so far – have been mixed. Some communities are seeing direct and rapid benefits tied to planned stations, while others have yet to grasp Crossrail’s regeneration potential.
Crossrail as Catalyst, supported by Crossrail, Arup, GVA, and London Communications Agency, is a multi-part programme designed to share best practice from areas which have realised regeneration opportunities from Crossrail and its predecessors; to identify options remaining before the route opens; and to look at how future infrastructure projects could help deliver even more in the places they touch.
Through research seminars, more than 25 cross-sector stakeholder interviews, a major report, the launch and ongoing discussion, we examine opportunities seized and missed, using overseas and UK rail-and-regeneration examples – as well as ongoing experience at six quite different stations along the Crossrail line.
At the report launch, speakers reaffirmed the importance of realising regeneration and development around stations – and the barriers to doing so.
To chair Fiona Fletcher-Smith (Executive Director of Development, Enterprise and Environment, Greater London Authority), London’s continued population growth gives clear impetus to unlocking regeneration and development. According to Fletcher-Smith, demographers expect that on January 15, 2015, a baby born in the Capital will push London’s population to an all-time high – and the city will continue to grow from there.
She said the biggest issue in accommodating this growth is infrastructure, and the task of developing the Long Term Infrastructure Investment Plan for London has been accordingly difficult. Navigating this landscape includes working with the private sector (who hold 49% of London’s infrastructure); simplifying the complexity of London government to aid infrastructure delivery at different levels; and getting better at making the business case for infrastructure investments. Fletcher-Smith pointed out that there’s much for future rail schemes to learn from Crossrail in maximising the regeneration benefit.
For Crossrail Land and Property Director Ian Lindsay, rail companies can have a role in realising these aims but they must first serve their remit: “Crossrail is, at its core, about delivering a new line safely, on-time and on-budget.” Once those targets can be guaranteed, he said, Crossrail can play a wider regeneration role – but it can’t do it on its own and relies on the proactive participation of the communities it’s working in, as future rail projects will need to do.
This message of proactivity ran through the event and report. Transportation shapes the geography and economic development of London, as GVA’s Principal Consultant Martyn Saunders put it, “but transport isn’t destiny”. Receiving transport infrastructure removes an element of choice in deciding whether to be a growth area, but there are still decisions to be made, such as how that growth is incorporated into existing fabric, or how the local offer might change or diversify. There’s still time for the public sector to consider these factors in receiving Crossrail.
For Joanna Rowelle, Associate Director of Planning, Policy and Economics at Arup, one quote from Crossrail as Catalyst struck a chord: “The Crossrail experience can’t stop at the top of an escalator…it should blend into a high-quality urban fabric.” For rail schemes, thinking of the bigger picture means active engagement in plan-making and with local communities, and casting the net more widely to consider public realm and station design. There’s been lots of good practice around this so far in delivering Crossrail, and this report’s action points can help share these ideas.
Across all the presentations and throughout the report, there is a call to action for local authorities. Bringing that perspective to the launch was LB Ealing’s Executive Director of Regeneration and Housing, Pat Hayes. While some benefits are a given – like the public-perception uplift that comes with getting on the Tube map – others are not guaranteed in his eyes. Crossrail brings opportunities, but Hayes said it’s up to boroughs to build on these. Speaking to Outer London LBs especially, he called on boroughs to take a proactive role in directing change.
Throughout the talks and subsequent discussion, there was broad recognition that there’s still time to act in realising regeneration and development aims for Crossrail – and that it’s also an important time to learn from the experience so far. That dual perspective led to Crossrail as Catalyst ‘s two sets of recommendations: a near-term ‘checklist’ boroughs and partners can act on before Crossrail opens; and a set of eight principles to guide future projects such as Crossrail 2 and HS2.
Crossrail as Catalyst is both a call to action to boroughs and partners, and a series of guidelines and principles for organisations taking on infrastructure-linked regeneration. To find out more about the research, the experience of the six stations covered, and the recommendations, please download the report.