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A look into the future

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The third annual FOSD conference had a new venue for 2012, and a new title. Future of Station Design became Future of Sustainable Design, which allowed transport hubs and gateways to be included, and the event took place at London’s ExCeL on 25 May.

Mike Goggin, formerly director of stations and customer service for Network Rail and now with Steer Davies Gleave, opened the day’s proceedings by commenting how recent improvements to Kings Cross, Paddington and the Gatwick Express service welcomed visitors to Britain.

The first formal speaker was David Biggs, Network Rail’s head of property, who outlined the challenge of creating stations that invited and inspired people to use them. He remarked that many Network Rail stations are now out-performing the high street in terms of retail sales, and that property values around stations had recently jumped by up to 30% as a result.

One example that David gave was the Junction Health Centre in the former railway arches at Clapham Junction. By asking the community what they wanted, and working with the local authority, Network Rail have delivered a valuable and useful local amenity.

Hubs and orbitals

Huw Thomas of Foster & Partners used the widened scope of this year’s conference to look at transport hubs and facilities in general. In a well-received presentation, Huw talked about how Heathrow Airport has defined Global Transport for 70 years. It is still the third busiest airport in the world, having handled 69 million passengers last year, but is currently operating at 98% of its capacity.

He also addressed the HS2 project. HS2 is not needed, nor required, to get Birmingham businessmen to London 10 minutes quicker, but it is essential to free up vital capacity that the West Coast Main Line needs and will offer a direct link with HS1 and into Europe. During construction, by dropping HS2 down a metre into the ground, there will be the opportunity to build new power lines, water lines and telecommunications into the embankments at the same time, building a new intelligent infrastructure network without having to dig up more roads.

Looking further forward, building a new rail orbital around London could take 4,000 lorries a day off the M25 and free up the blockages caused by everything having to go in and out of London. The Thames Barrier will need upgrading by 2035 and the energy created naturally by the River Thames could help to power a new tunnel crossing and a third global hub airport on the Thames estuary.

The third scheduled speaker was to have been Norman Baker MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport. Disappointingly, he wasn’t able to attend in person, but he did send a pre-recorded message. In it, he commented on the £150 million that has been invested in the National Station Improvement Programme, the £370 million Access for All scheme that has seen over 1,000 stations improved, and a project close to his heart, the £15 million cycle improvement programme.

City centres

After a short break, the second session of the day focussed on City Centre Hubs. Graham Tomlinson and Paul McGlone launched their Vandalism Control Organisation. This is a networking website for public sector organisations, which can use it to access information on suppliers of anti-vandalism products and solutions.

The design of Crossrail stations came next, with Stuart Croucher describing how they are intended to enhance the urban area within which they are located. He used the new Farringdon station as an example, describing how subtle design changes would have a large effect on the thousands of passengers who will be using the station once it has 140 trains an hour running through it.

A panel session on the topics covered so far followed, and discussions took place on the subject of controlling graffiti and vandalism, which cost the London Boroughs £950 million a year. Delegates also considered that involving local residents in a design encourages them to take ownership of the finished project and see it as part of their community.

Future possibilities

After lunch, Tony Lacy of ATOS looked into the future and the next level of infrastructure investment. In his current role, Tony is looking at his company’s approach to the global transportation market and how it is looking at rebalancing the transport equation by use of integrated sustainable networks.

Airports were the next topic, covered by Gatwick Airport CEO, Stewart Wingate. Gatwick has the world’s busiest single use runway with up to 53 planes an hour and up to 900 planes in any one day. Employing some 25,000 people, it contributes £26 billion to the UK economy. Stewart talked about investments in the new North Terminal’s £80m extension and the £45m nightly resurfacing of the runway. He was naturally positive about global infrastructure investment funds wanting to invest in the UK, but said that the critical rail links from airport to city had to have express services with dedicated rolling stock.

The community

The last topic to be covered at FOSD 2012 was the Community and Rural Hubs. Geoff Hobbs of Transport for London started this one off by commenting that Londoners rely on railways six times more than the rest of the UK. With responsibility for 300 overground and 250 underground stations, Geoff described how 50 stations had been upgraded as part of the Access for All programme and 50 stations had received help from the National Station Improvement Programme. In addition, over 2,500 cycle parking spaces had been installed, 70 stations had received deep cleans, 44 upgrades had been applied to the LOROL stations and seven new stations had been created.

Finally, the conference was introduced to modular stations. Feras Alshaker of Southern and Paul Beaty-Pownall of BPR Architects continued the theme of consulting with the community and asking them what they wanted from a station. It isn’t a new concept, after all Adrian Shooter of Chiltern Railways said “Railways are a simple business, ask the customer what they want and need and give it them”.

A short panel session was followed by a summary of the day given by Mike Goggin. Then Gavin McMurray of Merson Signs joined Jon Bentley from TV’s Gadget Show to present the FOSD Awards for Innovation in Design (Foster & Partners), Innovation in Engineering (First Capital Connect) and Innovation in Hub Retail (Marks and Spencer). Finally, an award for Outstanding Achievement in Station Design and Construction was presented to Mike Goggin on behalf of Steer Davies Gleave.

Then it was time for networking on the balcony overlooking Canary Wharf, and for reflection on the presentations given during the day.

The follow-up FOSD – Resilience in Transport Conference will be held on October 3 at Millbank Tower, London.

(w) www.fosd.eu

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