This thesis is the result of several years of research, but it is also, for the present, the destination of a fascinating and often surprising journey. When the issue of a PhD thesis was first raised, three months after my arrival at OTB, I had only recently become deeply involved in a study on the feasibility of automated container terminals. During the next few years, regional development and planning issues gradually took over, and most of all my interest in the functioning and the development of cities. Still, the exact subject of what was to be my thesis remained rather elusive for some time. It all started to become clear on a sunny afternoon in the early spring of 2003, when my supervisor Robert Kloosterman suggested that I read the recent book by Richard Florida. The way in which Florida's ideas, less popular then than they are now, could give a clear focus to my research only occurred to me some time later, however, during an evening trip on my bike (which is quite appropriate, since Florida himself says he gets his brightest ideas when he is cycling).
The Habiforum and NWO-Connekt programmes provided other starting points. In particular the focus on HST stations partly defined the selection of case studies. Indeed, one of the main challenges of the project has been to connect the two worlds of ‘transport’ and ‘urban’, of networks and places. Nonetheless, in spite of my personal affinity for high-speed trains the thesis is ultimately less about transportation than about ‘what makes a city’.
Finally, it is worth remarking that many chapters or fragments from the thesis have been, or will be, published in journals or presented at conferences, although mostly in a slightly different form from how they are included here.
Of the people who supported me during the writing of this thesis, I would like to thank in particular my supervisors, Hugo Priemus, Robert Kloosterman and Erik Louw. They were always there to provide me with advice or feedback on my work, often during lengthy and pleasant discussions: Robert with his enthusiasm and his inspiring broad view, Hugo with his no less wide-ranging approach and his pragmatism, and Erik with his sharp eye for methodological issues.
Furthermore, I wish to thank my former roommates at OTB, Martin Veentjer, Bart Lambregts, Rob Konings and Paul Metzemakers, for their pleasant company – writing a dissertation can at times be a lonely job – and for the inspiring discussions we had on our work and on numerous other subjects.
During my work on the thesis I had many stimulating discussions about the research. Many people provided me with very helpful advice and valuable information on particular aspects of the project, or in other ways showed their interest in my work. I would therefore like to express my gratitude to, in particular, Arie Romein, Marjolein Spaans and Andreas Faludi from OTB, Dion Kooijman and Bert van Wee from the TU Delft, Luca Bertolini and Stan Majoor from AMIDSt, Piet Rietveld, Eric Pels and Frank Bruinsma from the VU Amsterdam and Jack Burgers from the Erasmus University Rotterdam. I would also like to thank Mark van Hagen and Menno de Bruyn from NS Commerce for the data they provided. And, by no means least, I wish to thank all the interviewees, whose contributions were vital for the completion of the research, and whose willingness and enthusiasm made the conducting of the interviews one of the most pleasant parts of the work.
Writing a PhD thesis involves more than just doing research and writing it down. Therefore I would also like to thank Truus Waaijer, Martine Lansbergen and Hans Ruigrok, whose support has been indispensable in completing the project and making a proper publication out of my crude manuscript.
I also wish to thank my parents and my friends Jeroen de Vries, Yvonne Bontekoning, Frans Schuurmans and Sjoerd Hiethaar for their continuous interest in my work and their support, sometimes at difficult periods. And, finally, I would like to thank all others who contributed to the completion of this thesis.