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Masterplanning at Stations forms part of Network Rail’s new design guidance manual suite, and is the first ever strategic guidance document produced by Network Rail with a dedicated focus on masterplanning projects across the UK rail network. We were privileged to work with Network Rail to produce the guidance, applying our design skills, masterplanning expertise and policy experience to bring a fresh, holistic and design-focused approach to the project.
Previous guidance for those commissioning and designing UK rail infrastructure had been developed piecemeal over many years, with the result that it lacked authority, and was outdated and patchy in several areas. We were commissioned by Network Rail – who deliberately appointed architects as they wanted a clear focus on design quality and accessible communication – to oversee the preparation of this and several other documents within the design guidance manual suite. Now, for the first time, Network Rail has a suite of well-designed, clear and focused documents with a distinct hierarchy, covering all aspects of UK rail infrastructure design from strategy to design, compliance and operation.
Our guidance occupies a unique position between masterplanning for large urban areas and planning at the scale of individual stations. A key challenge was producing guidance that can work for many different users – e.g. Network Rail, local authorities, project sponsors or architects – with different levels of expertise and experience. We also needed to provide guidance that could work in relation to masterplanning projects that differ in relation to their scale, type and setting. A further consideration was how to prepare and design guidance that can endure in the face of a shifting policy landscape, new technology, and changes in how stations and the rail network are used by the public.
Masterplanning at Stations is the result of a close collaboration between Weston Williamson + Partners, Network Rail, our project partners Gerald Eve and Arup, as well as other stakeholders. Our design work was informed by a series of stakeholder workshops, as well as design guidance best practice from the UK and internationally, and we studied current trends and the future direction of rail infrastructure and urban design in order to create guidance that will endure for years to come.
The outcome is a document that is engaging and informative, and accessible to a wide audience – helping to bring clarity for those involved in the design and delivery of some of the UK’s most complex infrastructure projects, and to guide and support them from commissioning through to implementation. The guidance is helping to embed stations into their localities, and encouraging the creation of high quality spaces and public realm to benefit station users and wider communities. The existence of clear and well-designed guidance is now enabling Network Rail to have more productive discussions with its design consultants – as well as enabling a clear focus on project outcomes - from the earliest possible stage.