Energy Optimization at the Railway Station

The railway station, sometimes referred to as the train station, railroad station or depot, is a large transportation facility for trains and their passengers and goods. It is often found in towns and cities, and it may be a hub of activity where people meet up with friends and family for their travels or a place where people connect for their work. The station is also an important part of the local economy, as it provides a place where many businesses can operate and trade. The commotion and activities that take place at the station are fun to watch, even for those who don’t take the train.

As massive infrastructures through which transport networks and physical urban spaces are interlinked, stations have the potential to be a promoter of sustainable mobility in cities. To achieve this, the transformation of these spaces should address both negative impacts directly related to transport infrastructures on urban life and critical circumstances inherent in the city’s context. By merging their transport and public space functions, a railway station can become the link between the transport network and the city, enabling new forms of multimodality and fostering proximity services.

However, these potentials have largely been overlooked by the stakeholders around railway stations. A major obstacle is that property value ‘obliges’ station managers to rent their space at high prices, which excludes small local commerce and public services. Therefore, the challenge is to rethink and redesign the concept of the station as a public service, introducing a smart combination of mobility services with other auxiliary auxiliary spaces.

In order to explore the full potential of railway stations, this paper analyses the inputs and proposals from different stakeholders that participated in EIT UM Ideation Workshops in 2021. The purpose is to form a common understanding of the stakeholders’ views towards the transformation of railway stations and carve out first paths for its achievement.

A key conclusion is that stations can be a powerful booster for the sustainability of the city by improving both urban transport and related urban space, facilitating intermodality and promoting green and active modes of mobility. In addition, reshaping the station as a node and place and by integrating proximity services can contribute to changing citizens’ behaviour and making them more active travellers. In this respect, the paper highlights that a more in-depth research on energy optimization at stations is needed, incorporating both the reuse of the train braking energy and the self-production of energy through photovoltaic panels.

A multidisciplinary approach is essential to this goal, bringing together transport and urban planning experts, architects, designers, sociologists, economists, city planners and other disciplines, as well as the main stakeholders. This approach will help to identify the most promising approaches and test them in a number of experiment sites across Europe, in the framework of three projects let by EIT UM with local partners. This will allow to identify a model for the successful development of railway stations as promoters of sustainable mobility and more sustainable cities.