Network Rail and Design Council are asking for feedback on rail stations of the future, and how to ensure they are accessible, welcoming and feel safe to all, with virtual reality pop up experiences, workshops and online as part of ExploreStation.

ExploreStation is an ongoing initiative with the goal of finding out what people need to create great station experiences for passengers and communities now and in the future. Stations are integral parts of the British commuting and leisure experience, and involve moving through and waiting in a public space while we board. Network Rail wants to know how we can improve that experience for everyone, while also making the most of railway infrastructure so they serve communities and help mitigate climate change.

Members of the public are being invited to have their say on these important matters that affect everyday life. Will better signage and information, better lighting, more trees and planting at the entrance, more seating and community enterprises, such as coffee shops, make people’s experiences of a station better?

ExploreStation asks these questions and more and is holding events in May across Britain and online to find out what people think and want. Sign up to attend the free events here. Ahead of events in May, designs have been published online, with the public being asked for their views in a comprehensive and inclusive digital engagement platform

Commissioned by Network Rail and delivered by Design Council in partnership with The Glass-House Community Led DesignDigital Urban and CommonplaceExploreStation offers exciting ways for people to engage with new station design concepts from 7N Architects. The architectural practice won a 2021 RIBA international design competition to create design principles for local stations across the country. 7N Architects has produced a design that can work in different places and in different configurations – known as a kit of parts. The end result will be an overarching design blueprint for our stations of the future.

The public engagement programme enables participants to interact with 7N’s proposals in depth and in a variety of ways, including experiencing what the proposals will look and feel like. People’s points of view are a crucial part of the conversation, helping to shape the evolving design in different areas of focus – from feeding back on the design principles to the way the station will be integrated into local neighbourhoods. The innovative approach to engagement embodies Network Rail’s design principles, which include putting passengers first, being community-focused, collaborative, inclusive and innovative. Everyone can participate in ExploreStation, whether giving their thoughts online, joining immersive pop-up experiences or attending hands-on workshops.

ExploreStation online feedback portal 
Anyone can explore the design proposals online in a clear step-by-step format that addresses overarching principles before presenting further areas of focus in more detail. The portal is now open for feedback on the second-round design proposals at an entirely accessible platform:

ExploreStation’s activities will take place across Britain through May 2022. At immersive virtual reality pop-ups from Digital Urban, visitors will see a modular station materialising before their eyes. The virtual reality experiences have been designed to include wheelchair users, as well as those who use other mobility aids. Wearing headsets, they’ll get an opportunity to test out what if feels like to move around a new station or pull up in a train alongside the platform and new-style roof canopy in view of a distinctive clocktower. They’ll hear train announcements and experience the new design right down to the detail – including how the design concept responds to local communities and the character of different places. The aim is for people to have fun while finding out more about the proposals, so they can offer their informed views.

Immersive virtual reality pop-up events 
Each pop-up offers the option of bookable or walk-in slots from 10am – 5pm each day (10am – 6pm in Hereford and Paisley). The full guided experience takes between 15 and 20 minutes. In consideration of Covid-19, all touch points will be cleaned between visits. 

  • York (National Railway Museum) – 4 and 5 May [here]
  • Shildon (Locomotion Museum) – 7 and 8 May [here]
  • Manchester (Science and Industry Museum) – 11, 12 and 13 May [here]
  • Hereford (Shell Store) – 16 and 17 May [here]
  • Paisley (Telfords Paisley) – 19 and 20 May [here]

Each event is accompanied by a mini exhibition presenting the ExploreStation journey so far. 

Collaborative design workshops 
The ExploreStation workshops are designed to include everyone, including people with access needs, as well as those who identify as neurodiverse and/or with a learning (intellectual) disability or are physically disabled. We ask participants to specify their individual needs as part of the online booking process, to ensure that the workshop activities are adapted to work for everyone in the room. There will also be a dedicated workshop which, while open to everyone, will focus on how the HUB station accommodates people who identify as neurodiverse and/or have a learning (intellectual) disability or physical disability.

  • Central Liverpool – 11 May, 6pm – 8.30pm [here]
  • Central Manchester – 12 May, 2.00pm – 4.30pm [here]
  • Central Brighton – 25 May, 5.30pm – 8.00pm [here]
  • Online workshop – 26 May, 6.00pm – 8.00 pm [here]

So far, ExploreStation has already engaged with thousands of participants at workshops in Bristol, Cardiff, Sheffield and online. Together with comments from more than 6,000 visitors to the website, this feedback is informing the detailed design proposals that the public can access at ExploreStation online and in the second round of engagement in May. 

ExploreStation is commissioned by Network Rail and delivered by Design Council in partnership with The Glass-House Community Led Design, Digital Urban and Commonplace.