During the SPOTLIGHT: North series, Atkins led a session on affordability, deliverability, and accessibility in the North. Quadrant Transport reflects on the event and explains how the industry can build stations for the future.
Lawrie Quinn, Programme and Project director at Atkins kicked off the event by explaining how collaboration is the key to success. This is particularly significant as the industry focuses on affordability, deliverability, and accessibility in the North.
He told the audience: “I think all of us in the industry know that to bring forward a railway project takes a lot of professionals. If we are going to be moving forward into the future making sure railway stations and the railway are a crucial part of the transportation infrastructure and an important part of the communities, I think it is very important to focus on a key number of aspects.”
The event focussed on designing stations for the future, showing the audience how this is the best way to improve accessibility in the North. Over the last year, Atkins has been focussing on something unique.
Reimagining the railway is essential
They have set themselves the task of reimagining railway stations. Network Rail asked Atkins to develop a station product that can meet all category D, E and F stations, which amounted to approximately 2,000 stations.
Addressing the audience, Ali Mowahed, director of stations and TOD explained how this aligns with affordability and accessibility goals. He said: “When we started, we initially paused and looked at all of the modular station proposals that network rail had developed previously. We wanted to ask ourselves what had gone wrong. From an architectural perspective, the stations are not aesthetically successful. We went back to first principles.”
When we started, we initially paused and looked at all of the modular station proposals that network rail had developed previously. We wanted to ask ourselves what had gone wrong.
One of the solutions Atkins found was the ‘Smart Wall.’ It is a nimble solution that can grow and adapt for future developments. The Smart Wall incorporates weather protection, station facilities and passenger interaction, amongst other things. To do this Atkins developed a modular station product.
Lots to learn from the housing sector
Ali explained that learning from past projects was essential. “Atkins has developed an affordable housing project and we learned a lot from this. This project used a lot of prefabricated systems. The lessons we took away from Edaroth was that keeping the systems simple is the key to success. It keeps it rational and keeps it affordable which ultimately means it is applicable in the highest number of solutions and sites.”
The benefits of creating a nimble solution were clear to say when operating on smaller stations. Many of these stations are in more remote areas so a product that comes in smaller parts yields multiple benefits.
Moving on, Ali highlighted the importance of the tool kit that was developed alongside the modular station. “Rather than saying this is a modular station that needs copying and pasting on all category D, E and F sites that need a new station, we split the system up into a series of components and this was driven by the hierarchy of need that was taken from the station for the future work with nexus and the R&I customer experience assessment.”
Three sets of components to keep on track
To further ensure a focus on deliverability, accessibility and affordability Atkins produced three sets of components that serve transport needs, weather protection and ticketing. “We then had operational, rail amenity spaces, back of house and customer information. The final set of components were community facing. A lot of the site’s stations formed an important part of the high street, so we had to consider retail, civic spaces and multimodal connectivity.”
In the Q&A section of the event, the panellists were asked whether there are any key lessons about the pandemic. As well as this they answered questions about how ways of working have distilled into Atkin’s approach to designing stations for the future.
The benefit is there is no geographic limit to where our teams need to be. We have been able to call on support colleagues in the Middle East, Australia and across the UK. It has democratised the meetings approach.
Panellists replied: “There are obviously challenges faced with this disaggregated way of working for designers, but the benefit is there is no geographic limit to where our teams need to be. We have been able to call on support colleagues in the Middle East, Australia and across the UK. It has democratised the meetings approach.”
“From a designer’s perspective, the challenge in terms of creating and collaborating is one that we have needed to rely on the digital tools for. Collaboratively working in environments digitally, we can send information back and forth very quickly. I think that has been the reason we have been able to transition to a hybrid way of working.” added, Ali.
Wrapping up the event with the panellists agreed: “On a human level, the resilience in the team, stepping up and going the extra mile. It is this that has been the success story.”