On August 2013, Shan He (University of Western Australia) presented a paper on the densification of new towns in China at the Resourceful Cities conference held in Berlin1.
In this paper, Shan He looks at the development of the new towns that are emerging next to high-speed rail stations in China (High-speed rail Oriented New Towns, HONT) and the efforts made by local governments to further consolidate these areas. Since the mid 2000s, China has heavily developed high-speed railways. Most of the new stations are located outside city centres, in areas where new towns are developed. In spite of the central government’s mandate to preserve agricultural lands, China’s towns are not suitably dense.
By making a comparison between HONTs in Hangzhou and Tokyo, the author confirms this trend.
This paper identifies several obstacles that prevent the densification of HONTs in China. For one thing, local rail network is not as good in Hangzhou’s HONT: there are fewer metro stations than in Tokyo’s HONT and fewer connections between rail lines. These HONTs fail to become transport nodes. Moreover, transportation within new towns still relies too much on multi-lane roads. Shan He argues that these roads, while planned to ease traffic, only end up consuming large areas that cannot then be used for urban development.
Additionally, the railway terminal and the neighbouring blocks are not properly connected in Hangzhou’s HONT. In the case of Marunouchi (one of Tokyo’s new towns), the railway station is integrated in the new town.
Shan He also stated that urban development in HONT is not adapted to cities with rail infrastructures, using the example of car parks that are too numerous for a town with metro stations;
The author suggests more connections between regional and local rail lines so that HONTs can truly become transportation nodes and thus attract more activity. He also pleads for better planning of these new towns by taking into account the predominance of rail transportation in HONTs.
- Shan He (2013). High-density challenge for Chinese new towns oriented at high-speed rail: a comparison of urban density of station node Area developments between Hangzhou and Tokyo. International RC21 Conference 2013, Resourceful Cities, August 29-31, 2013, Berlin. Retrieved 10 March, 2014, from http://www.rc21.org/conferences/berlin2013/RC21-Berlin-Papers/07-He.pdf