How to Design a Railway Station

A railway station is a complex building and transport hub which is a key element in any public rail system. It must be designed to cater for the needs of passengers and railway staff and must be a positive addition to the surrounding environment. Many stations are also landmarks in their city and must stand out visually to attract passengers and create a good impression of the railway.

The design of a station must take into account its location in the urban environment and it must be integrated with the other transport systems. It must also consider the security and resilience of the facility in the event of a terrorist attack or other emergency.

In addition, a railway station must be easy to maintain. This requires good access for cleaning and maintenance of the buildings, tracks and platforms as well as the associated facilities and equipment. This must be taken into account in the layout of a station and the location of lifts and escalators. It is essential to provide clear sight lines for train dispatchers and safety crews.

The number and type of trains using a station will influence the design. For example, a high-speed station will require a different approach than an urban station. The basic choice is whether a station is a terminal with two tracks for the main direction of travel (an island platform) or two separate platforms outside the tracks (side platforms). Often a mix of both types of arrangement is used.

A station may also have bay platforms for terminating trains or standard island platforms for continuing trains. This can be useful in a multi-track system where track space is limited and the ability to operate through traffic is needed. A good example of this is the Union Station in Washington, DC which has bay platforms on the main concourse level to serve terminating trains and standard island platforms one level below that for those heading south.

A further determinant of a railway station layout is the level of the tracks and the level of the platforms. This can be at the same level, as in a road crossing, or at different levels. For example, the tracks and platforms can be on a bridge over the road or they can be in a tunnel under the street. It is not uncommon for a dual-purpose station to have a freight depot away from the passenger station.

There are a variety of other features which differentiate the various kinds of railway station. For example, the arrangement of stairways and escalators must be carefully planned. They need to be located in a way that allows a full trainload of alighting passengers to clear the platform area in a reasonable time. They must also be situated in a position that allows them to easily reach the train if necessary.

Finally, the choice of shops within a station must be carefully considered. For example, in an area where alcohol-related problems have been experienced it might not be sensible to allow a liquor store at the station. Likewise, fast food stores might not be appropriate in the context of a high-speed line.