Wheelworld Railway

The Future of Station Design

Posted in Business, FOSD, Partnership by Wheel World Dad on May 2, 2010

I was recently quite lucky to be invited to attend the Conference “Future of Station Design”.  It was a very positive day and I enjoyed meeting many people I’ve admired the work of over the years.  Maggie Philbin and Mark Williams were both very good, but also for me, meeting Chris Green again and discussing with people from technology companies about issues faced was a real high point for my day.

I want to touch on some highlights of the day


Sustainability is a word thrown about quite a lot at the moment – if the ‘naughties’ (2000-2009) was the decade of the “iWord”, 2010-2019 is definitely the decade of “sustainability’ and the key word of 2010, if the general election is anything to go by, is change

Sustainability is about changing to sustain those changes.  Growth, decline, environment – key elements of change. 

Network Rail are now beginning to embrace modular design.  This enables the ability to change in response to change – adding or removing toilet facilities, shops, cafes, upgrading ticket halls, downgrading ticket halls.  How does this affect accessibility?  Modular Design means that where access needs changing, it can change. 

The physical environment is one that must also change.  With physical changes to then environment, concrete based flooring such as paving, tarmac on platforms, edging etc can all come susceptible to the environment, especially with the rapid swings of extremes we have witnessed in recent years. 


Railways have come a long way from 1990 to 2010 – in 20 years we have seen the departure of slam door trains where someone in a wheelchair would be expected to travel in the guards van and the advent of inclusive travel (albeit mostly sat beside a smell-emitting toilet).  But one area has not changed dramatically – the first step from platform to train. 

We have witnessed an enormous amount of investment in lifts, height adjustable ticket desks, fold-out ramps (replacing heavy barrows), none of which I would change.  But we have an ever growing population of those who need better access.  Surely the next step is to remove that step – automatic ramps or step free access. 

Indeed, the key word of the conference was “the future”.


Design is a key part of access.  It was interesting to learn about how design is affected by key thoughts about the station – will it be an icon, will it properly convey the emotion of what is happening etc, what are the characteristics of the building…

I noticed though that in amongst this and more that I’ve not mentioned, there was little focus on something important – inclusion of all in the community.  Why?  A wheelchair often makes an appearance in “artist impressions” but what about those with hearing impairments?  What about those with visual impairments?  Learning disabilities? Mental Health? Ambulant but infirm? 


I said at the conference that no where is ever going to be 100% accessible.  But 95% is a good marker to aim for.  There will always have to be compromises.  But the key points need to begin to take a focus now, because over the next 10-20 years, we’ll be building, renovating, changing stations.  If not, we get into a pattern of repeating ourselves.

An aside

I left the conference at 18:00 or just after – it was in Covent Garden.  I wheeled down the road, got the number 23 bus and went to the station by myself.  That’s independence.