Rail (UK)

Reimag­in­ing sta­tions

Net­work Rail and RIBA Com­pe­ti­tions are host­ing a de­sign com­pe­ti­tion for small- to medium-sized sta­tions. AN­THONY LAMBERT looks at the chang­ing role of sta­tions in the 21st cen­tury and what we can ex­pect from the re­sults

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An 11-page spe­cial kicks off with a look at a de­sign com­pe­ti­tion for small-and medium-sized rail­way sta­tions.

For well over a hun­dred years, the rail­way sta­tion served as a main fo­cal point of towns and vil­lages. At all but the small­est sta­tions, solid build­ings and some de­gree of shel­ter were pro­vided in a wide range of ma­te­ri­als and styles, cre­at­ing a rich and dis­tinc­tive legacy de­serv­ing of care.

Dur­ing the 1960s and 1970s, when both the qual­ity of ar­chi­tec­ture and the ap­pre­ci­a­tion of his­toric build­ings reached an all-time low, Bri­tish Rail­ways was no­to­ri­ous for re­plac­ing good sta­tion build­ings and canopies with lit­tle more than bus shel­ters, usu­ally in con­junc­tion with de-staffing.

This of­ten-scan­dalous in­dif­fer­ence to the rail­way’s ar­chi­tec­tural her­itage was en­cap­su­lated by the de­struc­tion in 1962 of the Eus­ton Arch.

This pro­duced such a strong re­ac­tion that in 1968, BR dropped plans to de­mol­ish the for­mer ho­tel/of­fices of St Pan­cras Cham­bers, al­though the con­ces­sion did not mark a change of heart or pol­icy.

In 1977, Save Bri­tain’s Her­itage mounted an ex­hi­bi­tion at the Royal In­sti­tute of Bri­tish Ar­chi­tects (RIBA) en­ti­tled Off the Rails, whose pur­pose was “to make you an­gry”, as Si­mon Jenk­ins put it. It ques­tioned “the mis­lead­ing equa­tion between cor­po­rate im­agery and moder­nity” and called for a more re­spon­si­ble and cre­ative ap­proach to the adap­ta­tion of sta­tions, ei­ther for rail­way or al­ter­na­tive use.

A turn­ing point was the cre­ation in 1985 of the Rail­way Her­itage Trust (RHT), to pro­vide ad­vice and grants for the preser­va­tion and up­keep of build­ings and struc­tures on the na­tional rail­way es­tate.

Since then, more than £ 60 mil­lion has been awarded through over 1,750 grants, most for op­er­at­ing parts of the rail­way. These have helped to de­velop a recog­ni­tion in the in­dus­try that bland util­i­tar­ian sta­tions do not

pro­vide an at­trac­tive wel­come to the rail­way, that pas­sen­gers value sta­tions of char­ac­ter as well as con­ve­nience, and that these qual­i­ties en­cour­age greater use of trains.

Rail­way con­ser­va­tion work is cel­e­brated each year by the Na­tional Rail­way Her­itage Awards. Al­though the cat­e­gories salute imag­i­na­tive and high-qual­ity work across the en­tire spec­trum of rail­way build­ings and struc­tures, most en­tries are nat­u­rally sta­tions.

Trans­for­ma­tion of a dif­fer­ent kind has come from pas­sen­gers’ chang­ing ex­pec­ta­tions of a sta­tion. We have moved a long way from plat­forms with lit­tle more than a crude bus shel­ter and a pa­per timetable on a board, or the days when BR saw va­cant sta­tion space sim­ply as a rental op­por­tu­nity, with­out much thought of com­ple­men­tary ac­tiv­i­ties.

As a min­i­mum at staffed sta­tions, pas­sen­gers ex­pect com­fort­able wait­ing space, clean lava­to­ries, good light­ing, train in­for­ma­tion screens, and se­cure park­ing for bikes and cars. Un­staffed Grade F sta­tions lack some of these ameni­ties.

At larger town sta­tions, pas­sen­gers look for an in­ter­change with tram and bus ser­vices with ap­pro­pri­ate in­for­ma­tion, a cafe and/or newsagent, WiFi, bike and car hire, car-club fa­cil­i­ties, lo­cal or tourist in­for­ma­tion, and a staff pres­ence for in­for­ma­tion and help with ac­ces­si­bil­ity.

In­creas­ingly, pas­sen­gers will ex­pect elec­tric bike- or car-charg­ing fa­cil­i­ties. Elec­tric bike sales have in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly since the first lock­down, and a re­cent UBS re­port es­ti­mates that elec­tric cars will cost the same as in­ter­nal com­bus­tion-en­gined cars by 2024. If that tran­spires, sales of elec­tric cars are likely to in­crease dra­mat­i­cally.

Ris­ing ex­pec­ta­tions of sta­tions have been ac­com­pa­nied by a grow­ing sense of their ‘own­er­ship’ by the com­mu­nity and lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions. This is re­flected in the ster­ling work of com­mu­nity rail, mo­bil­is­ing vol­un­teers and stake­hold­ers to re­vi­talise un­der­used sta­tion build­ings and en­gage with their lo­cal com­mu­nity.

“In­volv­ing the wider com­mu­nity, cre­at­ing fa­mil­iar­ity with the rail­way and a sense of own­er­ship to­wards rail among as broad a co­hort of peo­ple as pos­si­ble will be crit­i­cal to the re­cov­ery of our rail­ways”, says Com­mu­nity Rail Net­work (CRN) Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Jools Townsend.

The po­ten­tial of sta­tions to play a greater role in com­mu­nity life is also re­flected in a grow­ing will­ing­ness of lo­cal stake­hold­ers to share in the fund­ing of im­prove­ments.

The re­gen­er­a­tion of Ir­lam sta­tion in Greater Manch­ester was funded by lo­cal and re­gional au­thor­i­ties and by the lo­cal Hamil­ton-Davies Trust, cre­at­ing a rail­way-themed cafe, cy­cle hub, chil­dren’s play­ground, her­itage cen­tre and meet­ing rooms.

“Stake­hold­ers can see the ben­e­fits of dif­fer­ent ways of for­mat­ting sta­tions,” says Tolu Osekita, Net­work Rail’s lead on third­party fund­ing.

“Al­though the dif­fi­cult part is get­ting peo­ple to help pay for them, busi­nesses and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties recog­nise that sta­tions can drive re­gen­er­a­tion and eco­nomic growth, be­sides pro­duc­ing bet­ter and health­ier com­mu­ni­ties.

“Dis­cus­sions with ben­e­fi­cia­ries about in­vest­ing in sta­tions is be­com­ing eas­ier - pri­mar­ily be­cause we are get­ting bet­ter at iden­ti­fy­ing ben­e­fits be­yond trans­port and, as im­por­tantly, com­mu­ni­cat­ing those ben­e­fits.”

Suc­cess in cre­at­ing a com­mu­nity hub is ex­em­pli­fied by the Kil­marnock Rail­way Her­itage Trust, which has used mul­ti­ple fund­ing sources to es­tab­lish the Kil­marnock Sta­tion Com­mu­nity Vil­lage.

The grad­ual restora­tion of the sta­tion has cre­ated a cafe, book­shop, gift shop, a records of­fice for the Glas­gow & South West­ern Rail­way As­so­ci­a­tion, of­fice space, and meet­ing rooms which host every­thing from art

ex­hi­bi­tions and cre­ative classes to tai-chi, med­i­ta­tion, yoga and even char­ity com­edy nights. The Ac­tive Travel Hub is sup­ported by a cy­cle work­shop and in­cludes led rides us­ing a fleet of elec­tric bikes.

CRN pub­li­ca­tions and its web­site are full of such en­ter­pris­ing ex­am­ples, and Townsend points to “an in­creas­ing fo­cus on com­mu­nity gar­den­ing, grow­ing food and bio­di­ver­sity projects to pro­vide a home for na­ture and con­nect peo­ple with the nat­u­ral world.

This may seem fluffy to some, but it is about build­ing re­la­tion­ships, com­mu­nity and sus­tain­abil­ity.”

Some coun­tries have gone much fur­ther in de­sign­ing sta­tions as multi-func­tion hubs of the com­mu­nity. Ja­pan has made a pol­icy of com­bin­ing sta­tion re­de­vel­op­ment with the pro­vi­sion of such com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties as den­tal prac­tices, surg­eries, nurs­eries and li­braries, as well as the usual ameni­ties. These pro­vide a source of in­come as well as in­creas­ing the at­trac­tive­ness of train travel.

In re­cent years, there has been a grow­ing fo­cus on the need for sta­tions to meet sus­tain­abil­ity cri­te­ria in their con­struc­tion and en­ergy con­sump­tion.

Pre­vi­ous vi­sions

In 2015, the Rail De­liv­ery Group pub­lished its Vi­sion for Sta­tions, ar­tic­u­lat­ing nine prin­ci­ples be­hind their role as po­ten­tially ma­jor con­trib­u­tors to lo­cal and na­tional economies. The in­ten­tion was to en­grain these nine prin­ci­ples into the man­age­ment of ev­ery sta­tion and in the long-term plan­ning of the

net­work by 2030:

■ Cus­tomer-fo­cused.

■ In­tel­li­gent use of tech­nol­ogy - tick­et­ing and in­for­ma­tion.

■ Seam­less jour­ney ex­pe­ri­ence - in­te­gra­tion and part­ner­ships with other modes, as well as fa­cil­i­ties that en­cour­age ac­tive travel.

■ Re­flect lo­cal needs and op­por­tu­ni­ties - work­ing with lo­cal busi­nesses, or­gan­i­sa­tions and CRPs to use spare sta­tion space for com­mu­nity ser­vices.

■ Safe and se­cure en­vi­ron­ment.

■ En­trepreneur­ial spirit - sta­tions as cat­a­lysts for in­no­va­tion.

■ Flex­i­ble and long-term stew­ard­ship.

■ Shared in­dus­try know-how - shar­ing best prac­tice and de­vel­op­ing good de­sign guide­lines.

■ Op­ti­mised net­work - re­al­is­ing the full value of ev­ery sta­tion while min­imis­ing in­ef­fi­cien­cies through in­vest­ment and oper­a­tion based on ob­jec­tive and in­formed de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

Some of these are self-ev­i­dent re­quire­ments for a sta­tion to be fit for pur­pose. NR’s as­pi­ra­tions go well be­yond that - its De­liv­ery Plan for Con­trol Pe­riod 6 (2019-24) talks of im­ple­ment­ing “a mas­ter plan­ning ap­proach to sta­tion de­vel­op­ment, to im­prove sta­tions for pas­sen­gers and help sta­tions bet­ter in­te­grate into the wider com­mu­nity”, as well as cre­at­ing “sta­tions that sur­prise and de­light”.

Quan­ti­ta­tive ev­i­dence for the value of in­vest­ing in sta­tions was pro­vided by Steer’s Au­gust 2020 re­port The Value of Sta­tion

In­vest­ment, for the RDG and NR.

It ex­am­ined 180 ex­am­ples to as­sess the value of in­vest­ing in Bri­tain’s rail­way sta­tions. Be­sides achiev­ing the pri­mary ob­ject of in­creas­ing pas­sen­ger num­bers, sta­tion in­vest­ment was found to gen­er­ate “sub­stan­tial in­creases in house prices, ter­tiary em­ploy­ment, en­ter­prise units and new de­vel­op­ments close to the sta­tion”.

It high­lighted the im­por­tance of strong part­ner­ships with third par­ties and ad­vo­cated ways to min­imise risks and max­imise suc­cess when in­vest­ing in new sta­tions.

How were these broad ob­jec­tives and so­ci­etal changes to be trans­lated into de­signs fit for the 21st cen­tury?

The com­pe­ti­tion’s pur­pose

Be­sides rais­ing the qual­ity of de­sign, NR wants the com­pe­ti­tion en­trants to re­flect “the evolv­ing civic role of [its] in­fra­struc­ture … look­ing to ex­pand what a sta­tion could be”.

The com­pe­ti­tion will give ar­chi­tects, en­gi­neers and de­sign­ers the chance to im­prove the travel ex­pe­ri­ence for the mil­lions of pas­sen­gers who use Bri­tain’s rail­way, and leave a last­ing legacy on sta­tion de­sign.

It asks de­sign­ers to reimag­ine small- to medium-sized sta­tions, which make up 80% (over 2,000) of all those on Bri­tain’s rail­way, so that they bet­ter serve the needs of both pas­sen­gers and their lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

The com­pe­ti­tion en­cour­ages en­tries which stim­u­late cre­ativ­ity and ad­dress the chang­ing char­ac­ter of our so­ci­ety.

“In de­vel­op­ing pro­pos­als, en­trants are en­cour­aged to con­sider how fu­ture sta­tions can be sus­tain­able and de­liver out­stand­ing value, while con­sid­er­ing the im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment to achieve net zero emis­sions to leave a pos­i­tive legacy for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions,” says NR.

To pro­vide en­trants with con­text and to in­form a brief, the De­sign Coun­cil co-or­di­nated ideas from a range of

stake­hold­ers, through work­shops with

324 par­tic­i­pants. Think Sta­tion sets out the find­ings.

Pre­fer­ring the term ‘pas­sen­ger hub’ rather than sta­tion, it sum­marises re­sponses to the ques­tion ‘what would a fu­ture pas­sen­ger hub be if it em­bod­ied each of NR’s Prin­ci­ples of Good De­sign?’ The ex­er­cise pro­duced nine pri­or­i­ties for sta­tions:

■ Sup­port ex­ist­ing and new com­mu­ni­ties in their lo­cal area, em­bed­ding sta­tions within the com­mu­nity by pro­vid­ing fa­cil­i­ties such as crèches and drop-in GP cen­tres.

■ Re­flect and em­body lo­cal char­ac­ter and her­itage. Par­tic­i­pants dis­liked “the idea of repli­cated de­signs and the com­plete ab­sence of speci­ficity, cre­at­ing ‘any­where’ places”.

■ Pro­vide con­sis­tent qual­ity of space and ser­vice in terms of the sta­tion fa­cil­i­ties and stan­dards, re­flect­ing the sta­tion’s size.

■ Es­tab­lish con­nec­tions with and between the town cen­tre and/or the High Street, through greater per­me­abil­ity and bet­ter links.

■ Cel­e­brate and im­prove the qual­ity of green spa­ces and open spa­ces and/or pro­vide ac­cess to them.

■ Be wel­com­ing and fa­cil­i­tate in­clu­sive travel - a stage be­yond ac­ces­si­bil­ity.

■ Sup­port and bet­ter in­te­grate cross-modal trans­port to pro­vide seam­less travel with shared data between modes.

■ Help to ad­dress cli­mate change through min­imis­ing the im­pacts of con­struc­tion and oper­a­tion.

■ En­sure longevity by ac­com­mo­dat­ing changes of use, ca­pac­ity, trends and tech­nol­ogy.

The com­pe­ti­tion

An­thony De­war, Head of Build­ings and Ar­chi­tec­ture at Net­work Rail since 2017, thinks that small- to medium-sized sta­tions in Cat­e­gory D–F have been ne­glected and un­der­stand­ably over­shad­owed by the mag­nif­i­cent de­vel­op­ments of the largest Cat­e­gory A and B sta­tions, such as St Pan­cras and King’s Cross. The com­pe­ti­tion is in­tended to re­dress the im­bal­ance.

The out­come will be a cat­a­logue of preap­proved new sta­tion de­signs recog­nis­ing that no one size fits all and which are suf­fi­ciently mal­leable to be used in a wide

va­ri­ety of lo­ca­tions.

The idea of stan­dard de­signs is as old as Brunel’s pat­tern-book se­ries of Tu­dor and Ital­ianate de­signs for the Great West­ern Rail­way in the 1840s. The LMS de­vel­oped a Unit Sta­tion in the 1940s, and BR adopted Mob-X and CLASP de­signs in the 1960s, the D70 style in the 1970s, and VSB90 in the 1980s.

Dur­ing his time as NR’s Chief Ex­ec­u­tive,

Iain Coucher set a chal­lenge in 2007 to build a sta­tion for un­der £1m, re­sult­ing in the Mo­du­lar Sta­tion pro­gramme with Mitcham East­fields as the first ex­am­ple.

NR’s com­pe­ti­tion was opened to in­ter­na­tional en­tries in June, and the first of three phases was con­cluded in Novem­ber with the short­list­ing of five win­ners cho­sen from over 200 en­tries from 34 coun­tries (see panel, be­low). The first phase called for con­cept pro­pos­als, so no spe­cific lo­ca­tion was given to en­trants.

For Phase 2, the win­ners will be given a more de­tailed, site-spe­cific brief, al­though the de­signs must be ca­pa­ble of easy adap­ta­tion to the con­text, size and com­mu­nity at a par­tic­u­lar site.

The win­ners will en­gage with NR rep­re­sen­ta­tives in de­sign ap­proach work­shops to help them de­velop their fi­nal de­sign sub­mis­sions, which will be made public next Fe­bru­ary. The prize for the fi­nal­ists will be an in­vi­ta­tion to en­ter into a con­tract with NR for de­tailed de­sign de­vel­op­ment work, and their work will feed into sta­tion de­sign guid­ance which NR will pub­lish in March.

It would not be un­char­i­ta­ble to pass a poor ver­dict on the ma­jor­ity of post-war small sta­tion de­signs. With some ex­cep­tions, they have ig­nored their sur­round­ings in terms of style and ma­te­ri­als, and they have failed to pro­vide the wel­come and ameni­ties that wait­ing pas­sen­gers de­serve.

This com­pe­ti­tion pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to raise the qual­ity and widen the scope of sta­tions and re­store their place in towns and vil­lages as a source of civic pride.

 ??  ??
 ?? O’DONOVAN/NET­WORK RAIL. LUKE ?? The Net­work Rail Mo­du­lar De­sign copied the LMS ‘Unit’ de­sign in its flex­i­ble ap­proach, al­low­ing a be­spoke ap­pli­ca­tion of a plan­ning grid and a choice of cladding ma­te­ri­als. The stan­dard­ised de­sign was the work of ar­chi­tects Robert Thorn­ton and John Fel­lows, and was pub­lished in 2006. Aimed at Cat­e­gory C-E sta­tions, it al­lowed for pho­to­voltaic cells to be in­cor­po­rated in the roof. Corby sta­tion was an early ex­am­ple, built in 2007- 08.
O’DONOVAN/NET­WORK RAIL. LUKE The Net­work Rail Mo­du­lar De­sign copied the LMS ‘Unit’ de­sign in its flex­i­ble ap­proach, al­low­ing a be­spoke ap­pli­ca­tion of a plan­ning grid and a choice of cladding ma­te­ri­als. The stan­dard­ised de­sign was the work of ar­chi­tects Robert Thorn­ton and John Fel­lows, and was pub­lished in 2006. Aimed at Cat­e­gory C-E sta­tions, it al­lowed for pho­to­voltaic cells to be in­cor­po­rated in the roof. Corby sta­tion was an early ex­am­ple, built in 2007- 08.
 ?? LUKE O’DONOVAN/NET­WORK RAIL. ?? Birm­ing­ham’s Cross-City route between Red­ditch/Broms­grove and Lich­field opened in 1978. The public dis­like of 1960s de­signs led to BR’s John Broome adopt­ing neo-ver­nac­u­lar brick to achieve a more tra­di­tional look for the new sta­tions - as here at Univer­sity.
LUKE O’DONOVAN/NET­WORK RAIL. Birm­ing­ham’s Cross-City route between Red­ditch/Broms­grove and Lich­field opened in 1978. The public dis­like of 1960s de­signs led to BR’s John Broome adopt­ing neo-ver­nac­u­lar brick to achieve a more tra­di­tional look for the new sta­tions - as here at Univer­sity.
 ?? LUKE O’DONOVAN/NET­WORK RAIL. ?? Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of the West Coast Main Line called for new sta­tions to be built quickly, pro­vid­ing an op­por­tu­nity to re­sume in­no­va­tion in pre­fab­ri­cated build­ings. The pro­to­type for the Mod-X sys­tem was East Dids­bury in 1959, and the sta­tion was de­liv­ered by rail as a kit of parts.
LUKE O’DONOVAN/NET­WORK RAIL. Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of the West Coast Main Line called for new sta­tions to be built quickly, pro­vid­ing an op­por­tu­nity to re­sume in­no­va­tion in pre­fab­ri­cated build­ings. The pro­to­type for the Mod-X sys­tem was East Dids­bury in 1959, and the sta­tion was de­liv­ered by rail as a kit of parts.
 ??  ?? Charl­bury, between Ox­ford and Worces­ter, is one of the few sur­viv­ing Ital­ianate sta­tions de­signed by Brunel. Built in 1853, it is char­ac­terised by the broad over­hang­ing hipped roof, pro­vid­ing shel­ter at front and rear. LUKE O’DONOVAN/NET­WORK RAIL.
Charl­bury, between Ox­ford and Worces­ter, is one of the few sur­viv­ing Ital­ianate sta­tions de­signed by Brunel. Built in 1853, it is char­ac­terised by the broad over­hang­ing hipped roof, pro­vid­ing shel­ter at front and rear. LUKE O’DONOVAN/NET­WORK RAIL.
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? The South­ern Re­gion in­tended a ma­jor pro­gramme of sta­tion re­place­ment in the 1960s and adopted a sys­tem named CLASP (Con­sor­tium of Lo­cal Au­thor­i­ties Spe­cial Pro­gramme). It used con­crete pre­fab­ri­cated pan­els for ex­te­rior walls and tim­ber or glass pan­els for in­te­rior walls. In the event over 30 CLASP sta­tions were built and other BR re­gions adopted the sys­tem; the SR’s scheme was cut back. This ex­am­ple is Ayle­sham in Kent. LUKE O’DONOVAN/NET­WORK RAIL.
The South­ern Re­gion in­tended a ma­jor pro­gramme of sta­tion re­place­ment in the 1960s and adopted a sys­tem named CLASP (Con­sor­tium of Lo­cal Au­thor­i­ties Spe­cial Pro­gramme). It used con­crete pre­fab­ri­cated pan­els for ex­te­rior walls and tim­ber or glass pan­els for in­te­rior walls. In the event over 30 CLASP sta­tions were built and other BR re­gions adopted the sys­tem; the SR’s scheme was cut back. This ex­am­ple is Ayle­sham in Kent. LUKE O’DONOVAN/NET­WORK RAIL.

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