Paving the way for a better passenger experience

Sally Binns, Marshalls’ rail expert, takes us on a journey to find out how good design and carefully selected materials can enhance the passenger experience from the station interface to the platform.

Around 6.5 million passengers travel on Britain’s rail and underground network every day and this figure is forecast to increase dramatically over the next decade.

As a result, record expenditure has been planned by the Department for Transport, Network Rail, and Transport for London for the coming years.

The UK rail industry aims to address overcrowding and congestion through a package of improvements focused on enhancements of the full passenger experience, from the point of arrival, through to the station concourses and right up to the platform edge.

It is focused on increasing capacity, improving safety, access, sustainability and customer service within station environments.

Setting the railway in the landscape

Well designed and managed station buildings and the accessibility of these within the wider landscape is essential to encourage passengers to travel and communities to flourish, creating a sense of belonging, as well as promoting social cohesion and interaction.

Travelling should be as stress-free an experience as possible. Commuters want to minimise travel time and avoid delays, those less mobile need to be reassured that adequate facilities are available within the station complex to cater for their needs and comfort.

The quality of the travelling experience is directly related to the quality of the design of the facilities – providing information guidance and comfort. That means specifiers and architects need to work with paving product suppliers whose expertise is rooted in a deep understanding of travellers’ needs based on many years of working with rail industry partners. Good companies will be investing in product design and development, supported by an in-depth knowledge of hard landscaping and street furniture.

Inevitably, rail environment benefits from paving products that promote the seamless integration of the entire building and surrounding public realm from car parking areas, cycle parking, bus or coach arrival, walkways, subways or elevated routes, the station concourse, right through to the platform edge.

The ambience within the station environment can be significantly improved through colour, material finishes and lighting. For example, paving that can be selected to look the same colour and texture – whether inside the station or in the parking area creating a seamless transition from the exterior to the interior and vice versa. Wayfinding and information points can be accentuated through the use of lighting so passengers can navigate their way around safely and quickly. The use of street furniture, in a wide range of finishes, styles and fixtures can also enhance station architecture encouraging travellers to sit, relax and enjoy the surroundings whilst waiting for their train.

Meeting public needs

The development and manufacture of products is paramount in meeting the public’s needs and that means getting the details right. A product range should provide and maximise comfort, ease of use and ability to maintain without complicated parameters.

Appropriate paving is an important consideration in all areas of the station– from the entrance, to the internal areas and out onto the platform edge.

The approach to the entrance of a station generally experiences high-traffic and must be able to cope with large volumes of heavy vehicles. Consideration must be given to the removal of surface water, for which permeable paving is an ideal option as it does not direct water to already overburdened sewers.

Associated products such as kerbs and edgings can be used for the delineation of pedestrianised areas, taxi ranks and bus stops. Pavements must be durable enough to cope with high footfall and must also have a high slip and skid resistance.

As you move into the interior of the station, any paving, whether it is concrete or natural stone, should have a high slip and skid resistance and must be easy to clean and maintain. It must also offer a high level of durability to cope with extreme footfall and to reduce the need for repair and replacement. It’s also important to remember that paving must also comply with statutory requirements for the disabled.

Moving out onto the platform, once again the durability and slip and skid resistance is a major concern. At the platform edge tactile surfaces must be used to assist the visually impaired. Here surface water must also be removed efficiently and safely with the use of linear drainage.

Lighting should meet the luminance design criteria and enhance the architecture and character of the station – including its flooring and paving.

Selecting the appropriate product and materials for people to walk on is as essential as any other design feature when creating a practical, aesthetically pleasing and economically viable space that fully enhances the passenger experience.