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Perspectives: UK rail stations – leaving a long-term positive legacy

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Hala Lloyd, Lead Architect for the Phase One Area North stations, HS2 Ltd

In Copper’s Perspectives series on UK rail stations, we’re asking construction sector leaders for their insights on challenges and opportunities arising from the new ‘golden age’ of station development.

Following on from her role as a panelist in Copper Consultancy’s recent event, Insights from a new golden age of rail stations, Hala highlights the importance of major station developments leaving behind a positive and lasting legacy.

In her role as HS2 Lead Architect, Hala will help deliver the station buildings and public realm at both Curzon Street Station and Interchange Station. A key element of her work includes leading design engagement with the independent design review panel and key local stakeholders.

I have been fortunate enough to help deliver some notable station developments in the UK. I now support HS2, the largest infrastructure project in the UK since the Victorian age and one of the most prominent in Europe. In its entirety, the project will include 345 miles of new high-speed track connecting Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and London.

HS2 will connect 30 million people and eight of our largest cities, with 25 stops from Scotland to the southeast. My role is to help bring forward the Phase One station buildings and public realm at both Curzon and Interchange in Birmingham and Solihull, respectively. While station functionality is crucial to the project, it is also essential to consider where they are and how they will impact current and future generations living nearby.

Our design vision for Curzon and Interchange aimed to secure a lasting legacy right from the outset. Our plans are underpinned by three pillars that informs our design approach, guidance and station requirements. Firstly, people will use the stations, so we must ensure that everyone benefits from and enjoys our design. Secondly, we recognise the importance of place. We have developed designs that make the stations a destination and somewhere people want to be, not merely a means to travel. Thirdly, we want our stations to last for a long time while benefiting their local communities. To hold our local stakeholders and us to account, an independent design review panel regularly measures our progress against these fundamental principles.

We are also keen that our stations designs align with local strategies. For Curzon, we have collaborated with Birmingham City Council to identify five key moves required to embed the station in its setting. This will enable future regeneration to take place in this part of the city. We are supporting Urban Growth Company and Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council with their plan for regional growth in the UK Central Hub. We want Interchange to become a major catalyst for economic growth there, bringing together the NEC campus, Birmingham Airport, Arden Cross, Jaguar Land Rover and Birmingham Business Park.

We have established some twenty-first century game-changing design requirements for Curzon and Interchange, aiming to create a lasting legacy.

Firstly, we have set out to ensure safety considerations span the lifetime of the stations, all the way from design to deconstruction. To meet this goal, our stations designers have looked to maximise an off-site manufacturing and, pre-fabrication mode of construction.

To set new benchmarks for equality, diversity and inclusivity, we are ensuring high standards permeate through design requirements, engagement, activities and delivery. As a result, we are already driving diverse and inclusive outcomes. For example, we have set mandatory requirements above current industry guidance for inclusive customer experience, including gender-neutral toilets, adult changing places, facilities for guide dogs and faith and quiet rooms.

The final key design requirement is to build sustainable stations to help the UK meet its commitment to become a net-zero economy by 2050. Consequently, we have set a BREAAM target of ‘Excellent’ for all stations, placing them in the top 10% of UK buildings. We have also established a requirement for all stations to reduce carbon emissions by 50% compared to the Phase 1 baseline assessments. Again, our station designers have responded to our challenges. ARUP exceeded our target by achieving a BREAAM ‘Outstanding’ certification for Interchange. This is a global first for any train station and puts it in the top 1% of UK buildings to achieve this rating at design stage.

We endeavour to leave a lasting legacy by upskilling Britain. We have already begun to meet this aspiration and intend to keep up our strong start. To start with, at peak construction, we will need 30,000 people to design and build HS2, including over 2,000 apprentices. More than 2,000 businesses have already delivered work on HS2, and 70% are SME’s. Throughout this project, we will always aim to maximise training and employment opportunities both at HS2 and in our extensive supply chain. This will not be exclusive to the south either, with employment opportunities available along the entire Phase 1 and 2 routes.

Community engagement and art and culture are of fundamental importance to the station projects and their legacy. Thus, we have sought to embed creative design thinking in developing and delivering our stations from the beginning. Additionally, we have engaged with local communities in the design stages for both stations to maximise inclusivity. Our engagement involves many activities and spans HS2 and our supply chain, including leafletting to homes, engagement events, displays, and interactive presentations.

Our engagement has generated a tremendous amount of feedback, especially on the design of the stations. The key messages we developed around Curzon and Interchange adhered to peoples’ opinions on external landscaping, diverse environments and heritage. The feedback has also been absolutely invaluable in helping our designers to progress the projects. While we have held thousands of engagement events involving numerous attendees, our engagement needs to ramp up now that the station contractor has been confirmed for Curzon. The same requirement will exist for Interchange when a contractor is selected.

In essence, our objective to leave a longstanding legacy is integral to the station projects at Curzon and Interchange. We have already begun bringing this into reality through our design vision and requirements, the employment opportunities we have created, and the brilliant feedback we have listened to through our community engagement. Of particular note, the sustainability credentials of the stations are of utmost importance as they can play a crucial role in promoting a positive agenda. It is not just about how they technically perform, but it is also about sustainable community growth. Younger generations must be brought along in our development process because their insights are vital, and they will benefit from the outcomes they influence.

Hala Lloyd joined HS2 in 2016 as part of the engineering team. Then in 2017, she was appointed Lead Architect for the Phase One Area North stations. Hala has over twenty years of experience working on transformational public sector projects, including the redevelopment of Birmingham New Street Station and Crossrail at Farringdon.

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