The Rail Forum brings industry experts together to discuss ‘Stations: Building today for tomorrow’

Senior Account Manager, Ella Sanders, and Senior Account Executive, Owen Bell, attended the first event of the ‘Station’ series hosted by the Rail Forum last Thursday. The event series explores the latest trends, innovations and challenges in constructing and operating stations. The events bring together speakers from the Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU), Network Rail, the Great British Railways Transition Team (GBRTT), Arup and HS2.

The theme for the event was clear, stations are a civil and community asset. Kim Quazi, Transport Lead for Arup, highlighted that we have not always viewed stations as being significant. So, how do we ensure that our stations that are built today are fit for local communities and are futureproof for the community of tomorrow?

 

More than a railway station

We need to enable stations to support their locality and be a catalyst for growth so they can become a community asset and perform their civic duty. To do this, it is important to understand what communities need and what barriers they face. We must consider this from both from a socio-economic perspective and accessibility point of view. Director of SCL Rail, Sam Uren, shared that we need to ‘consider stations in the wider context’, which would allow us to better target investment and maximise the benefits a station can provide to a community.

 

Understanding the customer

How we travel has changed. GBRTT reported that from October to December 2023, 52% of journeys were for leisure purposes, with commuting accounting for 42% and business travel only accounting for 6%. With the environment at the forefront of consumers’ minds, we must enable the journeys they want to make. These statistics highlight the significant growth of leisure travel within rail. But for commuting and business travel, the number of rail journeys is still below its pre-pandemic peak. Robert Goode from West Midlands Trains shared his view that ‘stations influence where people choose to live and how they choose to live.’ So, if we know consumers want to travel sustainably, with equal access to public transport for all, we must work together as a sector to enable this.

 

Stations are the interface for the rail network

The panelists frequently raised the need to work with stakeholders and transport delivery partners throughout the lifecycle of a project, from the business case through to operation. By aligning objectives from the outset, there is the opportunity to integrate multimodal travel. This is a focus for Network Rail throughout the delivery of CP7 which is the current five-year funding cycle for operating and maintaining the railway. Through true multimodal integration, the sector can respond to the challenge of the last mile, seamlessly enhancing passenger journeys whilst building trust and confidence with our customers. Paul Sumner, Senior Sponsor for TRU, highlights the link between the project and Station Facility Owners, as being the key to success for the redevelopment of Grade I listed Huddersfield station.

 

Making the journey accessible

All welcomed the announcement of the new National Rail Accessibility Strategy by Network Rail’s Malcolm Pitt. Further supporting the introduction of the ‘Hub Station’ concept, which West Midlands Trains are already using on some of their smaller stations. This modular, adaptable and community focused concept has the potential to transform the way we deliver our stations. Providing high quality community hubs whilst minimising impact through construction phases and delivering maximum benefits.

 

Copper in rail

At Copper, we understand the importance of connecting communities and the unique opportunities stations provide. Our team supports both clients and contractors with bespoke stakeholder engagement and community benefit advocacy. We additionally provide in depth local analysis to encourage greater engagement between the railways and the communities they serve.

We are launching our report on the public’s perceptions of station investment later this year. For more information and to make sure you are the first on the list to receive a copy please email ella.sanders@copperconsultancy.com or william.mendoza@copperconsultancy.com.