Relax, you're at the station; Relax, you're at the station;

Relax, you're at the station!

Railway stations have come a long way from their origins as the points where journeys begin and end. Today, stations are multifaceted developments, bringing together multiple transport modes and much more.

As populations grow and urbanisation gathers pace, demand for convenient and accessible mobility is rising. This has seen the scope of stations expanding – both vertically and horizontally.

Vertical integration with property developments has been especially popular in dense Asian cities, but it is becoming more common in other parts of the world too. Horizontal integration is also increasing with stations connecting with features like raised footways and underground tunnel networks – encouraging ‘walkability’ and connectivity with the wider urban community. In total, retail, office and hospitality spaces are all becoming part of station developments, blurring the lines between transport and the city.

However, this increased functionality comes at a price. Meandering corridors, tunnels and escalators can disorientate, frustrate and overwhelm travellers. Combined with stifling crowds at peak times, this often leads to unnecessarily stressful experiences, especially for older people who can often feel excluded.

One solution to these challenges is a more inclusive design approach. This sees the careful application of elements like covered walkways, travellators, spacious tunnels, benches and resting places, and proper wayfinding techniques. However, in stations around the world design teams are increasingly looking to nature in their search for an even better passenger experience.

Research shows that embedding green landscaping in stations and surrounding areas helps to create environments that lower stress levels, allowing passengers and staff to function more calmly and effectively. Other elements of a more naturally focused design agenda are effective too. These include the presence of plants and water, the use of natural colours, materials, and forms, and access to natural light and fresh air.

Recent successful examples of these techniques include the roof top gardens at Hong Kong’s Admiralty Station, the tropical garden at Atocha Station in Madrid, and New York’s ‘Arts for Transit’ initiative. These ‘biophilic design’ features not only improve the passenger experience. With benefits like improved air quality and increased access to natural space, they enhance local communities too.

It’s time we started sharing and applying this approach much more widely.