Stations of the future - Designing for life
Ambitious refurbishment projects are turning basic, functional train stations into awe-inspiring mixed-use destinations, complete with extensive dining and retail spaces.
But with the focus firmly on the look and feel of the stations, few people consider the time and resource required to maintain these visual masterpieces. Some perspective is needed to stop maintenance costs from growing.
How stations have evolved
Rail stations are evolving at an astonishing rate. In the past 10 years we have seen digitisation completely revolutionise the way in which passengers use stations. This has led to lots of changes in the way stations are designed. We’ve also seen stations become destinations in their own right. As the ‘smart city’ concept – the vision of a city integrated with technology – becomes reality, with transport and infrastructure at its heart, this evolution will only continue and grow faster.
The affect of design
As the way we use stations has evolved, so has our approach to designing them. Stations built or refurbished in the past decade have been increasingly ambitious in their design and passengers have reacted incredibly well to this.
There’s no doubt that improving the look and feel of the rail environment will be good for the industry. What needs to be recognised, however, is that these extravagant designs can present real challenges to those companies that manage the stations on a daily basis. Once the ribbon has been cut and a gleaming new station settles into day-to-day life, the features that have the most visual impact can often be the hardest, and most expensive, to maintain.
Some of the stations that Interserve manage have atrium windows that are 40 foot high. Trying to maintain these in a way that not only causes the least amount of disruption to passengers but also the least cost to our customer is extremely challenging. For example, at two major London stations that we manage the volume of passengers using them is so high that there is only one day that we can clean the glass atriums – Christmas Day. However these costs are rarely considered during early design stages.
Designing for life
These are extreme examples but they show what support services teams need to do in order to maintain our nation’s stations. Station owners and managers need to acknowledge and understand whole-life management from the very start of the design process. If high-level glass atriums are going to be built, access to these areas must be added into the station design. If this isn’t possible then the company providing cleaning and maintenance needs to be aware of this from the beginning so that solutions can be found at the best value.
Best of both worlds
The evolution we are seeing in the rail environment, where stations are developing into destinations in their own right, is a wonderful thing. Our cities and our people are becoming ever-more interconnected.
UAV thermal imaging surveys have several advantages over conventional methods – not only are they less labour intensive and more time-efficient, but its use also dramatically reduces the impact on facility occupants – in this case students. During the flight a drone can capture up to 500 metres (1640 feet) of horizontal view in comparison to few feet with hand held cameras. Furthermore, a drone can be easily operated by one or two people depending on the scope and complexity of the area.
There is nothing wrong with ambitious, futuristic design – it has changed how passengers view rail stations and raised the profile of the industry. However, station owners and managers considering a refurbishment must not lose sight of the fact that for every vaulted glass window there is a hidden cost to consider. It is key that practical aspects are considered from the word go. If this is done, we can have the best of both worlds – a visually stunning environment that wows customers and can be maintained at a reasonable cost.