Railway stations are the beating heart of urban regeneration

They may no longer be cathedrals of steam, but stations are helping develop communities, as well as becoming shopping centres and meeting places

Railway stations are the beating heart of urban regeneration
© Iain Masterton / Alamy

Stations have long occupied a romantic corner of the popular imagination and they still hold a particularly fond place in the modern public psyche. While they may no longer be the “cathedrals of steam” of Victorian times, stations are now driving a new wave of economic and social development in the 21st century.

Whether it’s the architectural jewels of the Victorian age or the brutalist examples of more recent times, the challenge of bringing the UK’s stations into the 21st century must go much further than a simple facelift.

The importance of stations has been recognised in the government’s housing white paper (pdf), which cites railway stations as key anchors for the next generation of urban housing developments. As the UK’s population grows and urbanisation continues at pace, the humble train station has become much more than just a stop on the daily commute. Increasingly they are the epicentre of growth and regeneration in many UK cities and destinations in their own right for shopping, working and socialising.

The recent publication of the latest National Rail passenger satisfaction scores reinforces how station regeneration quickly translates into not just improved passenger experience, but improved communities.

Passengers expect cleanliness and accessibility, but stations must now also work as shopping centres and meeting places, without losing sight of their core purpose. […]