Design Ideas Competition

The Brief

Access for All footbridge, Leyland, Lancs. [image: Network Rail]

Background and Design Challenge

The Footbridge Design Ideas Competition is seeking design concepts to further improve the legacy of rail pioneers and enduring examples of their footbridge designs across the UK rail network.

In launching the competition Network Rail is seeking to re-affirm its commitment to good design across the nation, and the delivery of excellent ordinary. Given that it is unrealistic to think that a one-size-fits-all approach is appropriate given the context of Network Rail's national footbridge portfolio, the aspiration is to generate a catalogue of appropriate footbridge designs affording greater flexibility in addressing sites across the country. The intention of this Open Ideas competition is to progress the winning entry through detailed design development post Network Rail's funding settlement for the operating period 2019-2024 resulting in a new addition to the catalogue – it is expected that this will be undertaken via Network Rail's new Architectural framework and the competition winners details will be included in the remit for this detailed design work. In addition to this competition, under a separate work stream, Network Rail will also refresh its current standard design (adopted following a competitive tender process in 2007) via a more traditional procurement approach. Further options to develop additional appropriate footbridge designs in the catalogue will be explored in due course to ensure excellent design is at the heart of everything Network Rail undertakes.

Network Rail owns about 2,400 footbridges providing access across the railway for both passengers at stations and people using rights of way. Most of these footbridges are single-span structures, with the majority having a main span of 16m or less. 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.

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 workbank. Each of these three key programmes of work will be continued post Network Rail's funding settlement for the operating period 2019–2024.

Despite the processes and deliverables of each of the above programmes being the same — a new footbridge, there is, currently, some disparity from a design perspective in how the programmes are approached. Having a catalogue of appropriate designs should result in greater alignment with a more recognisable design identity

Ideas developed for this competition should be innovative, challenge presumptions and significantly raise expectations for the quality of future designs while also giving due consideration to practicality, construction and maintenance. In developing their proposals, Competitors are encouraged to consider how their fully accessible footbridge designs may be adapted for use in other settings such as replacements for level crossings.

Outline Requirements, Technical Parameters & Design Considerations

The Competition is seeking to generate proposals with an elegant and effortless means of providing accessible footbridge provision within urban built station environments.

However,in addition to this principal anticipated use, the footbridge design will also need to be potentially applicable and aesthetically sympathetic to a range of other conditions and contexts including at-grade open platforms, crossings away from stations, embankments and in more rural locations across the UK rail network. Whilst primarily not intended for use in conservation areas or listed building settings, the footbridge's design aesthetic should offer the potential to do so.

Whilst the competition is seeking creative approaches and innovative design ideas, in developing their proposals Competitors will need to give due consideration to the fact that the railway environment is a safety critical one which is regulated to ensure the highest possible standards. The key reference document in this respect being the Department for Transport publication Design Standards for Accessible Railway Stations.

Design Standards for Accessible Railway Stations

To assist Competitors some basic guidance is provided below that has determined the stated parameters for the footbridge design competition. Competitors are invited to prepare schematic proposals that outline their approach to the design of an accessible pedestrian footbridge to span and satisfy the constraints of a typical electrified twin-track setting on the UK rail network, as depicted in the schematic sketch below.

Diagram 1: Sketch summarising the geometric box parameters and technical constraints for the accessible footbridge design. No proposed structure should impinge within the purple areas indicated.

Technical Parameters

No. of Spans Single span
Clear span 16m
Platform to soffit height 5420mm
Structural/electrical clearances Footbridge must not impinge on the purple shaded area in Diagram 1. The assembly of masts, gantries and wires found along electrified railways that supply power to make electric trains move is generally referred to as Overhead Line Equipment. It is imperative that designers maintain the necessary electrical clearances.
Edge protection Railway side protection against electric shock is required as per railway standards on electrical protection clearance requirements: Edge protection to balustrade and parapet over the railway shall not be less than 1800mm high (from bridge deck finished level), have an inner face which is smooth, non-perforate over its full height. The height and materials are to address railway side protection against electric shock and footholds for climbing that could encourage trespass are to be avoided.

The above technical parameter can lead to one of the largest visual impacts so aesthetic answers which also address the safety concerns should be explored.

Diagram 2 Extract from: Network Rail: A Guide to Overhead Electrification by Alan Baxter & Associates, February 2015
Footway and stair width The width of a bridge and stairs is normally determined by a pedestrian capacity assessment. For the purposes of the competition the clear width on the bridge should be not less than 2.4m with solid floor, and the clear passage on stairs should be a minimum 1.6m width. Designs should also explore the opportunity of providing access for dismounted cyclists wheeling bicycles.
Staircase risers The dimensions for staircase riser and goings, along with the minimum width between handrails set out in the Department for Transport Design Standards for Accessible Railway Stations document shall be used, which differ from those stated in the English Building Regulations.
Lift provision Lift provision should be provided – ramped and escalator access to the footbridge is not considered appropriate. It is recognised that the population demographic is changing with an increase in older people and those travelling with pulled luggage that would benefit from using a lift. Design Standards for Accessible Railway Stations provides regulatory minimums for the size of a lift but designers shall consider the ability for wheelchair users and cyclists to manoeuvre and wait in a sheltered area, avoiding dead-end spaces that are not overlooked. Competitors should explore solutions to provide safe and low maintenance access that do not feel remote or inconvenience users by having to take a longer circulatory route, whilst not interrupting passenger flow.
Platform environment & width Nothing should impinge on the shaded purple areas indicated on Diagram 1.
Landing zone footprint The bridge's landing zone footprint should be as compact as possible on the platform parallel to the tracks, with an allowance made for passenger circulation and waiting.
Roof The design should incorporate a roof covering the main bridge span, together with the access stairways where practicable. However, the design should also be capable of adaption, and offer the potential to work in a roofless configuration in other settings. The design of an uncovered station footbridge shall not preclude the option of adding an enclosure at a later stage (no handrails or footholds shall be provided along the parapet of an open or unenclosed footbridge). The roof to a footbridge shall be designed with falls towards the platform.
Head height The minimum headroom on the footbridge shall be 2.5m (2.3m under beams, bulkheads or signage).
Loading Live pedestrian loading (typically 5KN/m2) and wind loads should be taken into consideration. Detailed calculations are not required as part of the competition submission.

Other General Design Considerations

In developing their proposals, Competitors should also give due consideration to the following:

  • The constraints of the railway network, particularly in terms of buildability and minimising disruption to operational activities – access to the railway 'corridor' for construction, inspection and maintenance activity is restricted;

  • A design approach that would be economically efficient to fabricate, transport and quick and easy to construct. The materials specified should explore opportunities within the design to reduce costs in terms of buildability, by reducing the amount of on-site construction time (and disruption to operational activities), and spreading/minimising point loads as far as possible. For example, the proposed use of more expensive materials may be offset against potential savings in installation costs and construction time on site. The design should have simple interfaces to minimise impact on existing infrastructure and the working railway;

  • Materials should also be carefully selected to ensure the structural integrity, longevity and future ease of maintenance and cleaning of the structure;

  • Minimisation of embodied carbon where appropriate;

  • Minimisation of overall life cycle energy, especially for lighting, lifts, security and communications;

  • Inclusion of measures to prevent the risk of condensation;

  • In specifying materials finishes be mindful of the need to not distract train drivers, particularly with regard to glare. Likewise, the use of red or green colours should be avoided so as not to detract from signal sighting equipment

  • Lighting and services should be considered as part of the approach to safety and the overall design aesthetic. Special consideration shall be given to the lighting of open footbridges in the absence of canopy to carry the light fittings, mechanical, electrical and telecommunication runs. Lighting should minimise the consequences for light spill to the neighbourhood, and also to minimise light spill upward to the night sky;

  • Explore concepts to integrate passenger information and art into the footbridge.

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