The present project, and the separate presentation brochure, represent an initiative taken by the Center of Excellence in Planning (CEP) in November 2013, after our participation in the BUCHAREST FORUM 2013 Conference, a high-level and high-visibility event organized in October 2013 by the Aspen Institute Romania at the Parliament House in Bucharest. The main theme of the conference was “the new silk road” linking Asia to Europe through Turkey, and perceived as an opportunity for Romania and for Bucharest as “gateways” to Europe on a road of high economic, commercial, infrastructure, political and geostrategic significance.
The goal of the Center of Excellence in Planning (CEP) initiative is to develop a coherent, and integrated business plan/white paper in order to present to the central and local administration, to EU, to the international organizations, to the initial investors/venture capitalists and the key stakeholders in Romania a vision for the Bucharest Central Station as a flagship project for Romania. By consulting a large number of Romanian and international experts, and by working closely with the specialists in railways design, with members of the Urban Mobility Group of the Bucharest City Hall, and with our major partners, the real estate firm of CBRE and INTERGRAPH Romania, the Center of Excellence demonstrates in this white paper not only the need and urgency of the Bucharest Central Station flagship project, but also its feasibility over a period of 10-15 years. With political will, the human, managerial, and financial resources are there for implementing such a complex project in Romania.
A skillfully orchestrated effort to turn Bucharest Central Station area into a major European railway node and high-speed train stop, in combination with a multimodal hub serving the capital and the country, will bring major economic and social benefits. It will attract business and investments to the capital and the country. Additional benefits on a regional scale are the stimulation of economic vitality, improved access to jobs, reduced transportation cost and reduced infrastructure cost compared to sprawl-based growth. Benefits on a corridor scale are the creation of a coordinated system and network of stations and a strong real estate market. Finally, at the station and project level, the main benefits are the increased land and property value, improved public health due to increased walking and biking and the creation of a sense of community and place.
The most important components are the technological/railways component, which triggered the study, the urban development component, the urban mobility component, and the business/real estate component. In the absence of any one of these four components, the project cannot be implemented. Without a modern railroad Euro-station, with state-of-the-art facilities, buried tracks and a high-speed train, the study area cannot attract end buyers (businesses, retail and residents) and investment funds and developers. The modern Euro-station, with buried tracks and an option for a high-speed train tunnel penetration and link to the Southern area of Bucharest (Progresul) must be accompanied by the development of a large surrounding urban tract developed, built very attractively at high density, with the right mix of offices, retail, residential and public spaces, and supported by state-of-the-art features: smart city, green buildings, solar panels, walkability, convenient park & ride facilities, electric mini-buses running free of charge, and area-wide wireless internet provision.
Politically, the key to coordinated development, complex project management and securing financing is an institutional arrangement – a project company or a development agency set up by the main land owners, the Ministry of Transport and the Bucharest City Hall, in partnership with utility companies, banks and the business community.
Financially, the main arguments supporting the feasibility of the project are:
- A powerful management tool for the Central Station, supported by the Romanian government, such as the ITI approach (Integrated Territorial Investments) allows for multi-funds use, as from ESF, ERDF or Cohesion Funds, and co-financing.
- Under the Partnership Agreement proposed by Romania for the programming cycle 2014-2020, the country will have access to the European Fund for Regional Development, the European Fund for Investments, the European Structural and Investment Funds, the Cohesion Funds, and the Operational Funds, such as the Operational Fund for Competitiveness and the Operational Regional Fund. All these funds can finance various components of the Central Station flagship project.
- Under the Operational Fund for Competitiveness, most activities involving the information and communication technologies (ICT), as described in Chapter 8 – The Information Technology (IT) Component, can be funded.
- There are European funding sources for targeted activities under the project, such as urban mobility, soil decontamination, green buildings, renewable energies, solar energy, etc.
- Calls for projects on various European Programs, such as: Connecting Europe Facility, Horizont 2020 and Ten-T.
- A major financing source will be private funding, from international investment funds, large private construction companies, venture capitalists, etc, which can be tapped under the proposed Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and concession arrangements, for the development of the urban area surrounding the Central Station. Detailed arguments for the opportunity and the mechanisms of private investment in the Central Station Flagship Project are presented in section 9.3 of the White Paper.
The next steps in the Bucharest Central Station initiative/project are:
- The main stakeholders/decision makers (the government and Bucharest City Hall) to take ownership of the project and to implement it as a flagship project for Romania
- Establishing a project company or a development agency for the Central Station Redevelopment Area
- Identifying financing sources for each component of the project and for each development stage, including the feasibility studies
- Commissioning detailed feasibility studies for the project