Re-Imagining Railway Stations:


Connecting Communities


The Challenge

Photography © Luke O’Donovan for Network Rail


The Design Competition Challenge


Network Rail invites proposals that will challenge and re-imagine what a ‘station’ could become in the 21st century as the interface between the community and the railway.


This international design competition is focused on new solutions for small to medium stations across the UK. There are already more than 2,000 of these, ranging from small halts to medium-sized stations.

The competition’s aim is to explore designs for the interface between a 21st century community and the rail system that can be integrated in the wide range of different suburban and rural contexts. It will interrogate the meaning of the term ‘station’ through the design process.


Your solution should explain your underlying philosophy and show how this philosophy can be interpreted to be suitable both for use at any small-medium new build station site and also how it can be used to adapt those sites where there already is an existing smaller station.

We are inviting ideas that explore a response to the changing character of our society as well as addressing the wide variety of existing experiences at UK rail stations. Coronavirus has shaken up our way of life from which, along with the climate and ecological emergency, the recovery process will demand a profound shift in the way we behave in order to provide a secure future for future generations.


Network Rail’s Built Environment Vision and Principles of Good Design


Network Rail’s built environment vision is to deliver and maintain world class rail assets that provide the heartbeat for our nation’s transport system.


Our vision applies across the built environment and is guided by our responsibility to deliver, through good design, a safe and reliable railway for the millions of people who use it daily. We want our assets to be sustainable and our vision should enable us to deliver outstanding value for taxpayers and customers. The impact of our transport network on the environment must be at the heart of our thinking and design approach to achieve net zero carbon emissions.


Across the UK, the design quality of stations and the amenities they provide vary greatly. By improving the quality of our smaller stations, they will be able to provide for their communities in ways which meet or exceed, albeit at a smaller scale, the best examples of our larger stations in towns and city centres. We expect proposals to look beyond railways for good ideas from other parts of contemporary life to imagine how they can fully realise the unique opportunities a station provides.


The travel experience of rail users is essential to Network Rail. Every day, millions of people travel by rail. Their daily lives and experiences are shaped by these journeys: from the stations people arrive at or depart from and the trains they travel on, to the connecting spaces people pass through, and the mobile apps navigating these connections. Rail enables connections between and the integration of people within society. It supports the economy and livelihoods of local communities across the UK.


Network Rail’s Principles of Good Design published in 2018 help in delivering these national objectives and guiding its ambitions, culture and projects. The principles promote a consistent standard of high-quality design across Network Rail’s assets and operations, focussed on putting passengers first.


The principles are:


  • Identity

  • Passengers

  • Community focused

  • Collaborative

  • Inclusive

  • Connected

  • Contextual

  • Enhancing Heritage

  • Innovative

Thinkstation Workshop Programme


To initiate a broader exploration of the design challenge, Network Rail commissioned the Design Council to organise a programme of workshops undertaken in late 2019/early 2020 at locations across the UK, to engage with representatives from the rail industry, stakeholders, users, interest groups and design professionals. These workshops provided valuable and broad-based insights as participants shared their views on how travel and mobility are changing, together with the nature and functions that facilities will need to accommodate in the 21st Century.


The resulting ‘ThinkStation’ workshop programme was based around and underpinned by Network Rail’s Principles of Good Design. The report summarising the full output from ThinkStation is available below.




Outlined below are the principal insights arising from ThinkStation in terms of designing the next generation of ‘passenger hubs’:


  • Support existing and new communities in their local area

  • Reflect and embody local character and heritage

  • Provide consistent quality of space and service

  • Establish connections with and between the town centre and/or the high street

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

  • Be welcoming and facilitate inclusive travel

  • Support and better integrate cross modal transport

  • Help to address climate change

  • Ensure longevity by accommodating changes of use, capacity and trends


ThinkStation ‘sequel’ workshops

It is envisaged there will be a series of ThinkStation ‘sequel’ workshops during Phase 3 of the procurement process, where the final designs will be showcased and reviewed by stakeholders and rail users with feedback provided to the Bid teams.


Phase One Key Deadlines




Brief and Appendices


Download the PDF version of the Competition Brief which includes Appendices 1-4