Re-Imagining Railway Stations:

Connecting Communities

The Challenge

Photography © Luke O’Donovan for Network Rail

In launching the Re-Imagining Railway Stations Competition, Network Rail was seeking to identify new approaches to shape the future of small to medium-sized station provision across the UK National Rail network.

Small- to medium-sized stations constitute ~80% of all those on Britain’s railway and the current 2,000+ stations range from small halts in rural locations to medium-sized stations in suburban settings. Unified system approaches were sought that would be capable of being adapted to site specific conditions and contexts to enable the efficient design and delivery of facilities at sites already occupied by a small to medium-sized railway station, as well as at new build sites not yet served by an existing facility.

The selection process was structured in order to encourage new thinking and the participation of small and medium sized organisations without particular experience of working within the highly regulated UK rail environment, while eventually allowing for the development of a range of final design solution(s) that would be deliverable within the rail environment.

The anonymous Phase 1 Design Contest was launched in July 2020 and was open internationally to individuals, businesses and collaborative teams from the design, built environment and manufacturing industries. Inter-disciplinary collaboration was encouraged, as was collaboration between individuals and organisations of different size, expertise and experience.

Network Rail invited proposals that would challenge and re-imagine what a ‘station’ could become in the 21st century, as the interface between communities and the railway, across a wide range of different contexts and settings. Competitors were tasked with preparing schematic proposals in response to a wide-ranging Competition Brief. This included due consideration of Network Rail’s Principles of Good Design, the output from the ThinkStation workshop programme, and a photographic retrospective [HUB - Making Places for People and Trains] providing representative examples of existing stations constructed using various standardised approaches.

Network Rail were extremely pleased by the interest shown in the Design Contest, which attracted a total of 213 entries from Competitors based in 34 different countries. Submitted ideas ranged from ‘blue-sky thinking’ through sets of serious whilst innovative design solutions to the more prosaic and pragmatic. The submissions were appraised anonymously by a Panel consisting of built environment professionals, together with members of Network Rail’s Buildings and Architecture team (as detailed in the Competition Brief that is still available to download). Five winners were selected from the Design Contest phase to progress to the Negotiation Stage (Phase 2) when anonymity was lifted.

The Phase 2 Negotiation Stage required the selected teams to develop their design concepts in response to feedback from the Phase 1 Design Contest and a more prescribed set of technical requirements.

This included consideration of construction methodology, future delivery and working within the regulated UK rail environment. Augmentation of resource and the seeking of advice from consultants from other design disciplines was permitted accordingly. Design teams were encouraged to explore the changing character of society and the need for a profound shift in behaviours in order to address the climate emergency, and seminal events such as the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic. During the Negotiation Stage, design teams were given the opportunity of participating in a series of design approach workshops with representatives from Network Rail and their external advisers, prior to a final tender submission. The process concluded with teams presenting their as-tendered design proposals to the Evaluation Panel at a Clarification Interview.

On completion of the tender evaluation, the Panel concluded that a single Preferred Bidder should be invited to enter into a Service Contract Award with Network Rail to develop non-site-specific standardised solutions for inclusion in a ‘plan book’ of representative station designs. At Phase 3, the Preferred Bidder will work closely with Network Rail to develop the concept design into a readily implementable system for future potential deployment at multiple site locations across the UK rail network

Representative publicity images submitted by the Preferred Bidder and the four other teams who participated in the Phase 2 Negotiation stage phase are featured on this on-line web gallery. The web site also features representative publicity images for each of the remaining entries submitted to the Phase 1 Design Contest.