Planning and Designing a Railway Station

A railway station is a place where people meet and depart. It is a node of transport networks and, at the same time, an important part of the city’s urban life (Detier, 1979). This dual character means that stations must take into account both the negative effects directly caused by the transportation infrastructure and critical circumstances inherent to the urban environment.

A basic railway station usually includes two tracks for trains in both directions and either an island platform between them or two separate platforms outside the track (side platforms). The arrangement of tracks is a key factor that determines how a station is laid out, with an emphasis on pedestrian routes, space for passengers, information enquiries points and waiting facilities.

Larger railway stations also offer interchange with local public transport, ranging from a bus stop across the street to underground rapid transit urban rail stations. This can be facilitated by including bus bays or taxi ranks, but can also be achieved through a well-designed layout of the station’s hall and concourse.

Stations are complex spaces that must be able to accommodate different types of movements: those of trains, escalators and lifts, passengers and pedestrians with luggage. This requires careful planning and design, both to establish efficient passenger flows and, during emergencies such as security alerts and evacuations, to maintain safe interfaces between different movements.

One of the most challenging aspects of station design is to integrate railway infrastructure with other services, such as shopping, food and drinks, entertainment and health and wellness facilities. It is important to understand the specific social and economic context of a station in order to identify appropriate retail opportunities. For example, in a city where alcohol is consumed in excess, it may be unwise, from a safety and security perspective, to lease spaces to retailers selling liquor.

In addition to serving the transport needs of people, a railway station must be accessible for people with disabilities. This is a requirement both under legislation in some countries and as a matter of good practice. Typical considerations include ensuring elevator or ramp access to all platforms, matching platform height to train floors where possible, making wheelchair lifts available when platforms do not match vehicle floors, audible station announcements and the covering of third rail.

Several people depend on railway stations for their daily commute. Providing access for people with disabilities is therefore a crucial aspect of the station complex and must be considered at an early stage in the design process. Typical measures include pick-up and drop zones for the elderly and disabled, ramps at level changes, tactile marking of platform edges and warning strips, and the presence of trained staff who can assist travellers with special needs. Often these facilities are provided by private companies. However, the Government must be involved in establishing standards and regulating their operation. This ensures that the best possible service is offered to these vulnerable groups. It also allows the government to keep a check on the quality of service providers and prevent fraud and corruption.