How to Design a Railway Station

A railway station is a place where passengers disembark and board trains for commuting or travel for leisure. It’s a hub of transportation with travellers arriving on foot, by bicycle, car, bus, coach, tram and metro carrying luggage ranging from small hand bags to cases the size of steamer trunks. As such, the stations must have good intermodal change facilities for transferring between modes of transport.

While some may only offer a single platform for passengers to board and disembark, others are large terminals with multiple tracks for long-distance or local trains to terminate at. Some also have interchange with buses and trams and may even have locomotive and rolling stock depots.

Stations have a wide range of passenger services including ticket offices, information desks, toilets and waiting areas. Many offer food and drink outlets, newsstands, bureau de change, hotels, shops, luggage storage and car parking. The layout of these services and the way they are linked should be clear and well organised so that it is quick and easy to orientate within a station. Ideally, the layout should allow passengers to move from set-down zones to platforms and service buildings through grade separated passages.

Often a central feature of the station area is the entrance building and this must be designed to provide a positive first impression for arriving travellers. It should be attractive, visually appealing and welcoming, with an atmosphere that reflects the brand of the station. It should also be functionally efficient, with good connections to platforms and service buildings, clearly demarcated and well lit.

Many stations are also significant landmarks in their own right, whether they’re beautifully preserved Victorian Gothic Revival structures like London’s St Pancras or the futuristic Noord station in Amsterdam designed by NL Architects from reclaimed shipping containers. These structures are a testament to the fact that modern station design doesn’t have to be sterile and corporate.

There are numerous ways to enhance the performance of a railway station: running quicker trains, reorganising and improving station signage to promote connections, providing better customer service and creating more space for passengers to wait for their train. All of these improvements can help to reduce the amount of time that passengers have to spend waiting at the station, encouraging more people to use rail for longer journeys.

The best railway stations are not just good at serving their function, they also play a vital role as beacons for the city, drawing people in from far and wide. They’re often designed with great care and attention to the surrounding landscape and are built to serve their community as well as the people travelling through them. This makes them a vital part of any city and they should be treated as such.