Future Cities Forum 'Infrastructure 2021' and station-led regeneration




St Pancras International Station (showing Eurostar trains level with retail below)


Future Cities Forum will be holding a rail and station-led regeneration event with - among our panellists - Stephen Dance, Head of the Commercial Adviser Team at the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, Henri Murison, Director of The Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Nathan Marsh, Chief Digital Officer, Costain, Peter Farmer, Director of Chapman Taylor's UK Transportation Sector and Cannon Ivers, Director, LDA Design.


The forum will ask questions around how investment is being used to link the north and south of the country (and between regional cities), whether there has been a significant move recently towards joining up housing and infrastructure, how transport systems can be made more efficient through franchising, how digital infrastructure can make infrastructure build and maintenance smarter and safer during the pandemic and how station-led developments are providing important new drivers for the economy in the UK and abroad.


The UK government has just launched a £794 million investment to boost rail links in north and south. It is the final round of 'Restoring Your Railway Ideas Fund' and proposals are being invited to restore railway lines, services and stations that were closed to passengers in 1964.


It is a package to reopen two important rail routes closed more than 50 years ago and includes the delivery of the next phase of East West Rail, which will create 1,500 skilled jobs, and reinstate direct rail services between Bicester and Bletchley for the first time since 1968. It also includes £34 million to progress plans to reopen the Northumberland line between Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Ashington, which closed to passengers in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts.


The announcement forms part of the government's commitments to 'build back better' from the Covid-19 pandemic and level up transport infrastructure across the country by investing in rail connections that will boost economic growth, unlock new housing, and create jobs and opportunity.


Stephen Dance, Head of the Commercial Adviser Team at the Infrastructure & Projects Authority commented at our October 2020 forum about the future need for joined up infrastructure and housing to help our towns and cities work efficiently:


'We have, in the past in the UK, been very good at putting houses where there are no jobs, and infrastructure where there are no houses. This has probably been due in part to systemic thinking from Whitehall. My view on this is that the problem has been partly eroded by the creation of city regions. For example the Greater Manchester Authority has a regional plan which brings together planning for infrastructure, housing and jobs combined with a spatial plan, and the West Midlands is well on the way to achieving this too. Other areas like Thames Gateway are trying to bring these themes together. With devolved power and devolved budgets they can start to plan in a more holistic way - as London has done for twenty plus years. However it's not perfect and there is no political consensus on creating an Oxford Cambridge Arc authority. There are always tensions between where the housing goes, where the jobs go and where the transport infrastructure goes. However, linear infrastructure is going to be needed.'

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership is continuing in its aim to boost local economies through investing in skills, innovation, transport and culture, while making sure that powers and budgets are devolved to elected mayors so that cities have the 'resources they need to reach their huge untapped potential', it states. Henri Murison, Director has tweeted recently that to 'Build, Back, Better' that it is clear that looking at the detailed evidence franchising is still best and more necessary for buses post the pandemic crisis and that although Manchester 'has seen phenomenal growth in recent years, it remains held back by an inefficient, expensive public transport system.'


A new drone system for remote inspection and monitoring of urban sites such as road and rail is being trialled and backed with a £30 million Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The system which uses similar technology to autonomous cars, enables drones to be flown under supervision by pilots hundreds of miles away encountering problems such as GPS-denial and magnetic interference and in challenging locations such as the underground tunnels being built for HS2. The work is being carried out by a consortium of sixteen entities including developer, sees.ai, and the Skanska, Costain STRABAG joint venture in partnership with HS2.


Nathan Marsh, Costain's Chief Digital Officer said:


''Digital innovation across the industry is of crucial importance in moving into a smarter, faster, greener and more efficient way of delivering infrastructure projects. Deploying drones from the comfort of their homes will be a game-changer for project teams by speeding up the process an keeping teams safe and socially distanced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.'


Around the world new districts are springing up that require a full range of transport infrastructure and Chapman Taylor has worked on many world-class, transport-related developments including new-build transport infrastructure, retail and F&B areas. Director Peter Farmer led the team which designed all the new commercial and public concourse areas within the St Pancras International station, adding 62 shops, 15 bars/restaurants and six new platforms. The project included achieving the required approvals from English Heritage and Camden Council for the commercial signage and retail fascias. Abroad the firm has created a concept design for the proposed new Central Transportation Hub (CPK) between Warsaw and Lodz in Poland, which is due to serve a major multi-modal aviation and railway interchange serving 45 million passengers annually when it opens in 2027.


How we support station infrastructure with high quality public realm will be an important part of our forum discussion. LDA Design has been working on the development of Station Hill, Reading which has been granted planning approval by Reading Borough Council recently and completes the comprehensive vision for the seven-acre regeneration project. Occupied for decades by an NCP Car Park (Garrard Street) and Xafinity House, this prominent site will provide a new gateway for Reading. A flexible central square with a lounging lawn is designed to host outdoor cinema, local events, food markets and pop-ups. The development totalling over 2.5 million square feet encompasses a number of infrastructure benefits for the town as a whole, including a level connection from the Station through to Friar Street, a new pocket park at the exit to the underpass adjacent to the Station and an urban link bridge, combining to deliver a greener and more accessible welcome to Reading.


Director and Project Lead, Cannon Ivers said:


''Reading is shaped by two rivers, the Thames and the Kennet, and we have drawn inspiration form how they flow to create desire lines through Station Hill, encouraging people passing through to slow their pace and stay awhile, with inviting places to rest, play and catch up with colleagues or friends. '


The UK government's place-making agency and developer LCR Property will also be joining the discussion.

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