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High Speed | Arcadis: Successful station development

Stations are more than somewhere to get on and off a train. Done right they are a place to visit without travelling, according to Arcadis, which has come up with a way of working out what creates the best mix of development.

High Speed 2 (HS2) is understood to be very conscious that it has an exciting opportunity to use the new stations along the route for creating lively places to work, live, shop and be entertained as well as being transport hubs. 

The termini at Euston in London and Curzon Street in Birmingham have a responsibility to add to the life of the cities, while Old Oak Common in the capital’s west and UK Central at Birmingham International cannot be barren, windy halts.

Rotterdam central station

Rotterdam central station

Rotterdam’s Centraal Station: Modern rail and local transport hub

Best evidence for how multi functional stations can transform city areas has come from King’s Cross St Pancras where bold vision and brave decision making led the builders of High Speed 1 (HS1) to invest in creating a real destination. 

The refurbished Victorian structure, shops, hotels, bars and restaurants have made St Pancras a meeting place as well as a transport hub. It is thought that at any one time up to 30% of people at the station are not there for train travel. 

Just down the road at mainline Kings Cross Station, developer Argent has been hard at it for 15 years reviving the land around the railway. Far sighted decisions such as encouraging Central St Martins art and design college to relocate there and not crowding the railway lands with spec office development has created another mixed use destination with a lively atmosphere from dawn into the night.

Principe pio

Principe Pio

Arcadis and Callison RTKL have applied the MODex tool to Madrid’s Prinicpe Pio station

But how do HS2 and other station owners guarantee the return on investment when they come to build and redevelop their assets? 

Consultancy Arcadis has come up with an answer, it believes, via its Mobility Oriented Development Index (MODex); the result of a global collaboration with its design consultancy subsidiary CallisonRTKL. MODex  benchmarks stations against the public and private sector-led social and economic development they have created and their success at placemaking and operation as transit hubs. The result demonstrates what works, what doesn’t and where the gaps are – all hugely useful for existing stations and for those planning new ones or thinking of redevelopment.

For Arcadis, mobility led development or MODe, takes the common understanding of transport related development and expands it. “The idea is to lead to a masterplan and design that shapes not just the portals but the wider area around a station,” explains Mahmood Faruqi, a director of CallisonRTKL. 

Modex chart

Modex chart

“Typically the red line for infrastructure development at stations is tight to the station footprint. We believe that you need to move that line out and look beyond the stations into the surrounding area to establish ‘station zones’ that can be planned to create places where people live, work and are entertained with transport mobility at the heart.”

High density development is better at creating a sense of place than low, he says, but super high density only works in city centres. Similarly, in terms of sustainability a good mix of uses scores highly. And too much of one type of development attracts a low score. 

St Pancras

St Pancras

St Pancras: also assessed using MODex

“But if everything is too equal that may not get a high score either,” Faruqi says. “That makes for a development that is too contrived and results in something with no distinctive character.”

Arcadis has put 52 stations through MoDex with New York’s Grand Central at the top of the ranking, followed by DART in Dallas, Texas, then Principe Pio in Madrid and King’s Cross St Pancras.

Transport mobility is a key differentiator. Not only do the developments at stations need mixed use but people need to be able to get to and from them freely by walking, cycling, bus and metro options. 

Having created benchmark stations, Arcadis is now working with developers to use the knowledge to create aspiration briefs, providing evidence based design for place making. 

“Why not start with a proven, investable proposition which balances the needs of the transit provider, the public and private sector, and which has a place making element to it? And we are arguing that it is the customer of the transport that should be at the forefront rather than an afterthought. You have to put the customer at the top of the pyramid and consider what their experience will be because if you do that you get a much better product.”

The current Euston Station, rebuilt in the 1960s, took a solely transport-led approach when it was planned, Faruqi says. “There was no obvious consideration for the traveller, no effort to look at what happens around the station so it could be known as an attractive place.  “HS2 can’t miss the opportunity to do better. All the stakeholders need to be involved to look at the bigger picture. This is investing in national infrastructure; it is nation building, as important as that.”

Produced in association with


MODEX model values

 The MODex model addresses four key values:

  • Transit hub connectivity
  • Urban environment
  • Social placemaking
  • Economic development

Grand Central has scored the highest overall so far and topped the rankings in transit hub connectivity and economic development. “It is fully embedded in the surrounding high density environment and adds to it,” says  Arcadis client development director for infrastructure Chris Pike.

“More importantly Grand Central itself and the area it sits in are socially appealing, attracting many types of visitor who contribute economically to the city.” 

The MODe approach did, however, highlight the fact that there is further value to be unlocked from the hub. 

“While the quality of public space, prosperity and revenue all score well, potential remains untapped in sustainability, relative property value and transit quality,” Pike concluded. 

Sydney Chatswood topped the urban environment ranking creating “a vibrant and engaging social area”. King’s Cross St Pancras was second.

Top in the social place making assessment was Dallas DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) thanks to high quality public space and public facilities.

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