Places and Spaces: Crossrail’s Urban Integration Project
Author: Sam Richards
Publication Date: 26/02/2016
Crossrail has taken an ambitious approach to designing spaces outside its station. A Memorandum of Understanding was agreed which sets out a partnership approach towards design and funding of the urban realm areas, principally with the local authorities and Transport for London. To date this has led to Crossrail’s £30m for the improvements being tripled to £90m with contributions from other sources. Crossrail has also carried out integrated design reviews of its urban realm, stations and over site developments.
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Crossrail’s approach to the public spaces outside its station is ambitious and pioneering. No other railway project in this country has included a programme of urban realm improvements as extensive as Crossrail’s. In March 2014 urban realm designs were completed for 31 stations made up of 27 in the London area plus 4 outside London. This represents over 40 improved spaces outside stations; a total of 190,000 sq m of space – the equivalent of 19 Leicester Squares.
The statutory requirements of the Crossrail Act 2008 that relate to the reinstatement of the areas outside the stations, used as worksites during the construction of the railway, are fairly minimal. The project needs to ‘restore’ these areas to a condition agreed with the local authority.
Crossrail has gone significantly further than this statutory requirement. It has moved the expectations from simple restoration of the sites to setting new standard for areas outside station in the quality and integration of the designs and in the scale of the improvements. There are a number of driving forces behind this, both strategic and commercial:
1) Crossrail has explicitly recognised that the future passenger experience of the new railway will go beyond a reliable and punctual train journey and high quality station design. Crossrail’s passengers will also judge the success of the railway by their experience of using the spaces outside the stations as they arrive and leave. In order to set high standards for the immediate surroundings of the stations in terms of the design and functionality of the transport interchange and the urban realm, the areas need to be planned and implemented by a number of public bodies and funding is required from a number of sources.
2) An aim of the project has been to spread the regeneration effects of Crossrail as far as possible. One way of encouraging this is to encourage the urban realm improvements to grow out from the station through the commission of urban realm ‘masterplans’.
3) As part of its core funding strategy Crossrail’s has a target of raising approximately £500m through its Over Site Developments (OSDs). The requirement of the Crossrail Act that the project needs to gain consent for the OSDs has led to the integration of the three elements of design: station, OSD and urban realm. It has also added to the impetus for urban realm improvements because of the positive effects such improvements can have on regeneration and land values.
The partnership approach: the Memorandum of Understanding
The principles of integrated design, designing for wider areas than Crossrail alone can deliver, and a partnership approach to funding, were agreed at an early stage in the projects life to augment the minimal approach to the urban realm in the Crossrail Act. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the Urban Realm and Transport Interchanges at Crossrail Stations was agreed in October 2010 by Crossrail and London Underground (the nominated undertakers for the project), the local authorities along the Crossrail route, Transport for London, the Department for Transport, Network Rail and the London Development Agency.
This short document is not legally binding but included principles for co-operation, the sharing of information and joint funding which have been carried through to the urban realm designs completed for 31 stations. The MoU also included urban realm design principles: the designs aim to be attractive, adaptable and sustainable so their use can change over time; accessible; legible and free from clutter; and safe and secure. Importantly they also aim to retain the identity, diversity and characteristics of local areas. It also included transport interchange design principles, taken from TfL’s Best Practice Guide, which related to efficiency, usability, understanding and quality.
The concept of wider designs around the Crossrail stations was included in the MoU in the form of urban realm ‘masterplans’ where the stations were located in one of the following locations: in town centres, where there are significant station rebuilds, or where significant land use change is envisaged. The aim of the masterplans is to ensure that the Crossrail design sits within an up to date context and to maximize the regeneration benefits brought by the new railway. The status and content of these masterplans was subject to the relevant local authority’s development planning base.
The partnership approach in practice
In practice the MoU approach meant that masterplans were drawn up for nine new stations in the central tunnelled section of the line (from Paddington to Woolwich including the new DLR station at Pudding Mill Lane) and for eight stations on the surface section of the railway: (Romford, Ilford, Abbey Wood, Ealing Broadway, Southall, Hayes and Harlington, Slough and Maidenhead)
The MoU briefly outlined Steering Groups as the mechanism for developing the designs that would include the main partners and funders: Crossrail, the relevant local authority, TfL (for those stations in London, on both the central and surface sections of the route), and Network Rail (for those stations on the surface network). In practice design steering groups were set up for the 9 stations on the central section with Crossrail funding design consultants work for the areas immediately outside the stations as well as wider areas that needed implementation funding from other parties. For the surface stations, steering groups were set up the 18 stations within London and the 4 stations outside London to the east and west. Of the total 31 designs in the central section and on the surface, 20 were carried out by urban design consultants and 11 in-house by Crossrail’s Urban Integration team. All had joint clients established through the steering groups and those on the surface section that were not carried out in-house by Crossrail were jointly funded in a three-way split between Crossrail, TfL and the local authority. This joint working, and in some cases joint-funding and joint-procurement of consultants, has meant that there is widespread ownership of the designs which has helped considerably in the successful raising of funds from TfL and from the boroughs.
Integrated design and design review
In order to test the quality and level of integration of Crossrail’s designs for its urban realm, over site development and stations a design review panel was specifically set up for Crossrail by CABE (the Commission for Architecture and the Build Environment), which in 2011 became part of the Design Council. The Crossrail CABE design panel consisted of a team of multi-disciplinary reviewers (architects, urban designers, engineers, developers, and experts in pedestrian movement and sustainability). Between 2010 and 2013 the CABE panel reviewed more than 40 separate elements (stations, over site development and OSDs), many more than once. This has been the most extensive design review exercise of a major infrastructure project in this country to date.
The CABE Panel enabled the urban realm designs to be reviewed not just as designs in themselves but also in the context of the position of the station and OSD entrances. The 10 central section urban realm designs were all reviewed by CABE, alongside their associated station entrances and OSDs, as was Abbey Wood because of the significance of its new station design and urban realm. The other 17 urban realm designs for London stations were reviewed by Design for London (DfL) which is a part of TfL. The designs reviews included representation from the relevant London local authorities and other interested parties (such as English Heritage) which assisted with the eventual feeling of joint ownership of the designs.
Joint funding of the designs
There was an informal understanding between Crossrail, representatives from the boroughs and TfL, following the agreement of the MoU, that there would be an approximately equal three-way split of the funding for implementing the urban realm designs in London. This understanding was brokered through the Crossrail Planning Forum and underpinned by the rationale that the improvements would benefit the Crossrail stations, the local transport connections and interchange, and the would lead to, directly or indirectly, improvements to the locality. Crossrail, TfL and the relevant local authority all, therefore, had an important stake. It was envisaged that an initial target of £90m expenditure would be split along the following lines: £30m from Crossrail for the ‘core’ areas immediately outside the central section stations; £30m from TfL in the form of a ‘Crossrail Complementary Measures’ (CCM) fund for the areas outside stations on the London surface section; and £30m from the boroughs – made up of their own capital funding plus funds collected from developers through section 106 agreements and the Community Infrastructure Levy – that would supplement the areas funded by Crossrail and TfL so that not just ‘core’ urban realm areas were funded but also wider ‘masterplan’ areas. Although TfL’s CCM funding is not conditional upon boroughs’ match funding, it does strongly encourage boroughs to identify there own contributions as part of their bids. In addition to the Crossrail, TfL and borough funds, Network Rail will be funding improvements outside the surface stations that are subject to significant re-building. To date boroughs’ have identified £27m. Outside London it appears likely that funds will come forward from Slough Borough Council and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead to fund the improvements outside the their town centre stations.
To date therefore has been considerable success in reaching the target of £90m with the joint Crossrail, TfL and borough total standing at £85m. It appears likely that by Crossrail opening in December 2018 the £90m target will be exceeded and the total will have moved towards the £130m which is the total cost of all the urban realm designs carried out for the 31 stations within and outside London.
Recommendations for future projects
In summary the recommendations are as follows:
- Draw up red lines around stations which go beyond land needed for construction and take into account areas that would benefit from associated improvements.
- Form partnerships with local authorities, transport bodies and other local agencies to form the basis of joint planning of areas and joint funding.
- Encourage local authorities to draw up local land use masterplans at an early stage to act as the context for station and urban realm planning.
- Draw up ambitious urban realm masterplans to provide a context for the projects’ work within its red line and to act as a basis for fund raising.
- Undertake the detailed design of stations, over site/ adjacent developments and urban realm together to ensure the designs work together.
- Undertake design reviews of various elements at an early stage to ensure the highest quality of design and that elements work together as well as individually
Sam Richards is Head of Urban Integration at Crossrail, a post he has held since 2008. In this role he has led and managed the largest programme of urban realm improvements associated with an infrastructure project in this country: designs have been produced for 31 stations as part of a £130m programme. Previously Sam worked for Transport for London as Chief of Staff to the Commissioner and as Head of Land Use Planning, for London Underground on the Jubilee Line Extension, and for the Local Government Association as a policy adviser on planning and transport. He started his career as a town planner working for London Boroughs. Sam is a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute and is a member of the HS2 Design Review Panel. He is a regular conference speaker.