February 14th

The design behind your journey – transport interchanges

Train stations, interchanges and airports can be emotional places – all those tearful goodbyes and joyous reunions, not to mention the stress and excitement associated with journeys. But behind these scenes lie staggering feats of design and engineering, which can make transport hubs among the most interesting and awe-inspiring buildings in the world.

Intermodal passenger transport involves using two or more modes of transportation in a journey, such as transferring between rail, underground, bus and air travel. Creating simpler, more convenient and well thought out interchanges is essential to improving public transport, making it faster, easier, safer, more reliable and hopefully, more enjoyable. And, if using public transport is more attractive to existing and potential passengers, this helps to achieve broader economic, social and environmental objectives.
Many of us use transport interchanges daily, but how often do we stop to consider their role beyond their basic function of going from one mode of transport to another? Of course, interchanges must meet the relevant technical requirements for transport operations as well as enabling safe, hassle-free and simple-to-understand access for passengers. But they also play an important role in the social lives of our cities, offering more than just a gateway from A to B. They can be meeting places, places to shop and places to eat and drink – truly integrated spaces that enhance passenger experience, generating footfall, which in turn increases revenue for station operators, contributing to the local economy.
King’s Cross station in London is an excellent demonstration of this approach, with:

  • Clear routes between modes
  • Integrated information at key decision points
  • A major new square as a public focal point, plus other areas of public realm for informal use
  • An enhanced retail offer

Over the past 10 years we’ve worked on a large number of interchange refurbishments as well as new builds. From giving aging transport hubs a new lease of life with Bailey V-Plank soffits at Potters Bar, Finsbury Park and Heathrow 123 to our metal facades installed at Norwood junction.
More recently, we are seeing significant developments and innovations in this sector, with original design plans being reviewed in recognition of the importance of customer experience over functionality. With a heightened focus on aesthetics, architects are designing buildings that entice travellers to explore what is within and beyond, with striking feature facades and eaves to welcome visitors and guide them to entrances and platforms. Just take a look at Digbeth Bus Station in Birmingham and the stunning Wythenshawe Transport Interchange as perfect examples of this.
Creating a masterpiece takes time and expertise, achieved by collaborative working relationships. We work closely with the client and designers from the outset in order to create the bespoke systems that will deliver the architect’s vision. Importantly, early design involvement by a manufacturer aids designers to create beautiful, as well as commercially viable, projects.
As total building envelope specialist, the specifier can exploit our experience and knowledge across the board, from facades to flat roofs – and crucially, the integration of these elements. The distinctive profiles on AHR designed projects such as Rotherham Train Station, Rochdale interchange, Accrington interchange and Haymarket – Leicester illustrate how we have achieved this, resulting in spaces that are a pleasure for passengers to travel through.
So what’s next? There has been an explosion of Volumetric Modular Construction (off-site building construction) in the past few years that’s set to continue. These principles were used in part on transport projects such as Ashtead and Hassocks before 2010.  However, they have been taken to another level with redevelopments at Reading and London Bridge stations, where unitized construction methodology was fully embraced.
The modular approach reduced on-site labour at Reading by approximately 3000 man hours, in favour of reduced work periods carried out in a factory environment, thereby capturing the benefits of increased productivity, improved logistics and quality control. Time savings across the overall construction program are achieved by running factory activities concurrently with site build activities, with limited installation time and reduced commuter disruption. It’s easy to see that this is the future of construction for the transport sector and beyond.