Design Ideas Competition


The Footbridge Design Ideas Competition sought new ideas to help inform Network Rail in their design and installation of fully accessible pedestrian footbridges across the UK rail network.

Launched in June 2018, the Competition was open internationally to practising architects, structural engineers, civil engineers or teams thereof, together with part-qualified and students of these design disciplines. The competition attracted 121 submissions from competitors based in: Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, Ethiopia, Germany, the Republic of Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Vietnam.

Publicity images submitted by the entrant judged to have submitted the best response to the design challenge, together with those of a highly commended scheme are featured on this interim on-line gallery. A physical exhibition of selected entries is to be held at the RIBA's Portland Place (London) HQ building in late February 2019, when this on-line web gallery will be modified to feature the A2 sheets submitted by the authors of the winning and highly commended schemes, together with publicity images of long-listed schemes and each of the remaining competition submissions

Access for All footbridge, Denmark Hill, London [Image: Network Rail]


Network Rail owns approximately 2,400 footbridges providing access across the railway for both passengers at stations and people using rights of way. Some of these include enduring examples designed by the rail pioneers and the competition sought design concepts to build on this rich legacy.

As part of the Department for Transport's Access for All (AfA) programme, Network Rail has installed 200 footbridges since 2006. The AfA funding initiative was established to improve accessibility at railway stations through the creation of obstacle free routes from station entrance to the platform. Alongside this programme, further, accessible, bridges have been installed as part of Network Rail’s high risk level crossing closure programme and its cyclical renewals work bank.

Over a third of Britain’s railway infrastructure is now electrified and the structures required to span the railway often represent the most significant change in the local landscape since the introduction of the railway itself. Electrification of the network has enabled faster trains with reduced carbon emissions but has also resulted in perceptibly taller footbridge structures which take longer to cross and have a greater visual impact.

Recognising that it is unrealistic to think that a one‐size-fits‐all approach is appropriate given the varied context of the national footbridge portfolio, Network Rail's aspiration is to generate a catalogue of appropriate footbridge designs affording greater flexibility in addressing sites across the country. The purpose of the Competition was to identify a design concept which, through further development, would result in a new addition to the catalogue. Under a separate work stream, Network Rail is also seeking to refresh its current standard design (adopted following competitive tender process in 2007) via a more traditional procurement approach, as well as exploring other options to supplement its footbridge design catalogue.

Competition entrants were required to prepare schematic proposals to outline their approach to the design of a fully accessible pedestrian footbridge in response to the challenges set out within the Competition Brief.

A Technical Panel – comprised of representatives from Network Rail, the Railway Heritage Trust, together with the RIBA Architect Adviser and an external engineering expert - was charged with reviewing the anonymous design submissions and identifying a longlist to recommend for further consideration by the Judging Panel.

Network Rail and the Adjudication Panels were extremely impressed by the level of interest expressed in the project, the general high quality of the submission material and the breadth of approaches and interesting ideas developed in response to the challenges set by the Competition Brief. The design propositions included a strong set of themes for consideration and some provocative approaches, which in their different ways, challenged the means of providing safe and accessible passage across the railway.

The Adjudication Panels recognised that a single standard footbridge design may not necessarily be appropriate for use across the entire UK rail network. Some situations would predicate a more bespoke approach in response to the context and/or setting - and indeed it was felt that some of the submitted schemes would be more suited for this purpose. Whilst other submissions had developed a suite of adaptable bridge forms with a common architectural language.

View the Winner and Highly Commended


Footbridges owned by Network Rail


Footbridges installed since 2006