Designing a Railway Station

Millions of passengers and tons of cargo pass through railway stations every day around the world. They form a critical point in the transportation system and play an important role in the economy, society and daily life. It is therefore important to design railway stations to be safe and efficient in their operation.

There are several different types of station, all designed for different purposes, from a high-speed rail hub to a suburban commuter terminal. The main features that distinguish one type from another are the layout and the level of the tracks. In addition to these, there is a wide range of services and facilities available at the station.

The most basic configuration of a station is two tracks with an island platform between them. There can also be separate platforms outside the tracks (side platforms), or a combination of both. Station buildings can be on the same level as the tracks, or the entrance may be at a different level.

Besides ticket sales and information desks, most stations have cafes, sandwiches shops, newspaper stalls and bookshops. There are often shoe repairers and dry cleaners on the premises, while larger stations may have fashion outlets. All of these outlets must be accessible to passengers without obstructing the walkways or limiting the number of people that can enter and exit the station. It is also important that retailers must be able to meet the safety requirements set by the station management and have staff that can respond quickly in case of an emergency or fire.

In many cases, a station building is the only facility the passenger will encounter on the journey, so it needs to be comfortable, clean and well-equipped. The space should be well insulated against noise, and there must be sufficient ventilation. In addition to this, it is important that the entrance and passages leading to the platforms are clearly marked. Generally speaking, there are several different areas within a station, with some dedicated to passengers and others to crew members and maintenance staff.

It is also important to design a clear separation between commercial and passenger services. This allows passenger flows to be managed more efficiently and helps limit the time needed for passengers to orient themselves.

Although it is a modern structure, Liege-Guillemins station thumbs its nose up to anyone who says the golden age of train travel is dead. This contemporary design by Santiago Calatrava is an undulating white concrete edifice with soaring ceiling beams that form a monumental arch over the tracks. Opened in 2009, it combines the efficiency of airport-style architecture with a nod to the sleek high-speed trains that run through it. Its simplicity and beauty make it a must-see for anyone visiting Belgium.