A better passenger experience by design
In today's world of high speed digital connectivity, travelling is no longer considered 'down-time'.
Passengers want journeys to integrate seamlessly with the rest of their day and, for rail owners and operators looking to grow passenger numbers, rail needs to do more than simply move people safely and efficiently; it must deliver a high quality, integrated and enjoyable experience.
With several large rail projects ramping up across Australia, HASSELL rail expert Peter Morley says the time is ripe to put people back at the heart of rail travel.
"The spaces we are creating impact on people's daily lives, influencing the way they use the city and go about their day to day activity, making it essential they are easy to access, functional and enjoyable places to be," Peter says.
"New rail infrastructure must go beyond just heavy engineering and construction, to consider broader civic factors – ecology, urban design, heritage, environmental issues and community needs – from the outset."
HASSELL Principal and rail specialist, Ross de la Motte, said for train travel to become truly embedded in the community and to boost patronage, developers must consider the conveniences people want to access as they travel between home and work.
"Clustering retail and community services in and around stations and providing reliable wi-fi connectivity both at the station and en-route are just a few ways to make rail travel the most convenient option," says Ross.
"And it doesn't need to come at a significant cost. The incremental expense of high-quality design and good passenger amenity is relatively modest in comparison to the investment needed to acquire property, build bridges, fit out tunnels and buy rolling stock.
"What's more, the urban uplift and activation that comes through well designed infrastructure can be significant, boosting the local economy and supporting a more vibrant and engaged community."
In addition to amenity, Ross says customers want convenience, low risk, cleanliness, responsiveness and a human face.
"A major consideration when designing the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link for example, was the potential for passengers to be put off using the service due to a large portion of the journey being underground," said Ross.
"In response, we developed a concept that established a clear connection from surface, to concourse, to platform by opening up the shaft leading down to the ticket hall. This created a flood of light and made for a seamless transition below ground.
"Once underground, double height platforms offered a generosity of space and visibility that created a sense of calm and openness."
While the engineers know how to build the infrastructure, Ross says it is the role of the architects and designers to put the needs of passengers and end-users at the forefront of the decision making process.
"Passengers want their train journey to be efficient, safe and comfortable, but they also want to embrace it as part of their day - a seamless, effortless and delightful journey with beautiful trains, stations, streets, squares and parks.