Our recent research, the Hub and the Place, takes an in-depth look at the issues related to infrastructure delivery, by examining three case studies of rail transport hubs and their surrounding environment and urban development in the UK, China and India.
Ambitious plans for the development of transport hubs and their surrounding areas have become more prevalent throughout the world. Infrastructure is the physical result of investment in economic competitiveness. The construction-led growth that it ignites has the potential to drive social change and to create sustainable and long-term jobs. At the same time, high quality infrastructure improves our environment and quality of life.
In London, the King’s Cross St Pancras station redevelopment is “the biggest inner city redevelopment in Europe”. It provides a major international rail station, a strategic transport hub and a centre of urban renewal covering 67 acres.
In China, the Guangzhou Railway Station (GRS) upgrade is part of China’s 10 mega infrastructure projects. The project is an integral part of a programme to revive the region’s trade links and competitiveness in mainland China and throughout the whole of Asia, Russia, and India. It will start construction in spring 2018, having been first conceived in 2012.
In India, the Delhi Metro mega project was initiated from the pressing need to modernise and address the chaotic transportation issues in Delhi. It is a good example of government-led and development-based Land Value Capture funding mechanism for urban mega projects not previously used by public-sector actors in India. The development company was given absolute power to acquire land deemed necessary for the development, with a "special regime" that ensured it was well insulated from normal politics.
4 lessons learned from this international comparison
1. Interaction between multiple actors
In all mega projects, successful delivery depends on the interaction between multiple actors including developers, landowners, public agency planning officers, politicians, and community groups. These actors have diverse objectives: social, political, environmental and economic.
2. Interconnectedness of governance with projects
In the King’s Cross development, relationships were generally communicative, in other words an approach in which the government blended its strategy with those of multiple non-governmental actors.
In the case of China it is largely authoritarian, combined with a fragmented approach to spatial planning and multiple agencies and commissions involved, leading to cross-sector competitions.
In India, the central government, the state and municipal governments are in a tug of war over the control of public land resources and their management. In addition, the limited stakeholder consultation in the development of these mega infrastructure projects may threaten their long-term credibility.
3. Importance of a favourable economic context
At the time when the development of King’s Cross was under way, the UK was experiencing significant economic restructuring. The King’s Cross development purposefully included the pursuit of public interest goals, such as a safe and efficient transportation system, and creating representative public spaces in the urban core.
In the Guangzhou Railway Station example, the main economic drivers are the Chinese open-door policy and its drive towards globalisation and internationalisation, coupled with increased competitiveness among Chinese cities against each other to gain prominence in the international market trade.
In the case of the Delhi Metro, Indian policymakers and planners borrowed the LVC funding mechanism termed “Rail and Property” from Hong Kong and adapted them to India’s unique socio-economic and political context.
4. Availability of finance and opportunities for overseas investors
In the case of King’s Cross, the availability of international finance and the involvement of profit-seeking “venture” developers and pension funds largely drove the project.
By contrast in China we find autocratic high-level state orders represent barriers for non-state actors to invest in state-owned projects. While the potential to involve foreign and private investors is supported by the provincial government and the National Development Council, the Ministry of Railways which has a monopolistic dominance in railway construction projects and their operations, does not welcome foreign investment.
In Delhi, the availability of international finance was pivotal and the government rigorously sought foreign capital and expertise. This suggests ample opportunities for foreign investors seeking to invest in India’s growing portfolio of mega projects.
As you can see, a diverse and complex set of factors drives these projects and produces distinct patterns of development at particular time periods.
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