UK: What are the key challenges that currently impact good transportation design?

In this question and answer article, leading transportation design expert, Peter Farmer, discusses the facilities and services today's travellers expect in transportation hubs and the key challenges that are currently impacting transportation design.

What are the key challenges that currently impact on good transportation design?

Growing populations, national and international trade and personal mobility are all putting pressure on transport infrastructure. We increasingly need to look to optimise the use of existing infrastructure, to reduce environmental impact and provide a return on investment.

Transport interchanges are also having to become more multi-modal, dynamic, commercially active environments of interaction and leisure. The edges between the operational and commercial areas are being blurred for the benefit of the passenger, operator and the surrounding neighbourhood. From a design perspective, this requires a more integrated approach to developments.

And then of course there is the impact of technology….

At the individual level, as passengers and customers, how are we creating new challenges for designers?

Travelers may now choose to arrive at their travel departure point much earlier than before, choosing to eat, drink, relax, work or catch up with friends in a way they never used to before. Developments in technology have aided these trends, as smart phones and mobile devices become part of our everyday lives. In areas such as airside departure zones or station concourses, people are behaving differently in these spaces, with changing dwell times and seat utilisation often influenced by factors such as a person’s search for a free WiFi signal. The concept of a transportation hub as an area for leisure and hospitality is now at the forefront of development planning.

So what leisure experience can passengers increasingly expect in our stations and airports?

Retail and food and beverage options are now more important than ever in becoming part of the leisure experience passengers can enjoy. The Queen’s Terminal (Terminal 2) at Heathrow has the world’s first personal shopping lounge at an airport and a dedicated, bespoke-designed luxury shopping area, which was designed by Chapman Taylor. Our retail projects at King’s Cross and St. Pancras stations again responded to these key trends.

Non-travelling customers are also now a key customer segment for UK station operators, who have noticed an increase in the use of facilities by this group which now accounts for as much as 20% of spend at key interchanges. 

What about the wider considerations you have mentioned regarding the effects of a development on immediate neighbourhoods?

Transport has always been a catalyst for development. Commerce and Governments and society as a whole are realising increasingly the social, economic and environmental benefits of the integration of transport and mixed-use developments. This influence tends to be marked within a 5 to 10 minute walk, or 500m, of a particular Transport Orientated Development (TOD).

A TOD will have a core area that includes a mixture of land uses oriented to transit services and facilities, with physical and visual amenities that encourage transit usage. The mixture of land uses includes retail, leisure, entertainment and hotel amenity, employment centres, upper-story offices and residential. TODs will tend to increase property values by 5 – 15% in this vicinity. A recent report by estate agent Knight Frank (Action Stations; the impact of Crossrail on residential property in central London, 2013) states that average property prices within a 10-minute walk of the stations on the new Crossrail development in London have already risen by 30% since 2008.

So TODs are a win-win solution for everyone?

It’s not necessarily as straightforward as that. Chapman Taylor is currently working with CSIC (Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction) on a study which explores the social and economic ripple effects of transport hub developments and seeks to create development guidelines and policy suggestions. Initial studies have examined the impact of key central London developments such as at Kings’ Cross and London Bridge as well as the influence of the new Crossrail line across the Capital.

These issues must be linked to overall debates surrounding the impact of increased transport services on communities and the environment. The proposed High Speed 2 (HS2) rail link from London to Birmingham, and the arguments for and against the development of a new runway at one of London’s major airports (and the further infrastructure that these projects in turn will demand) illustrate the opposing viewpoints and pressures that planners, authorities and Governments all over the world face in the delivery of appropriate transportation solutions for the future.

About the Author

Peter Farmer (BArch(Hons) BA Arch(Hons) RIBA)

Director, London

Peter heads up our Transportation sector in the UK. He undertakes a key role in the continuing development of this sector, related research, masterplanning, due diligence and sustainability.

With over 25 years’ specialist experience across the UK, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and the Caribbean, he has an in-depth understanding of the political and business drivers of projects with multiple stakeholders and complex design and delivery teams.

Areas of expertise:

Commercial / Transport

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