Network Rail is holding an ideas contest to rethink pedestrian footbridges across its 40,000ha estate
Open to practising architects, structural engineers and civil engineers, the single-stage anonymous competition seeks innovative proposals for a standardised, fully accessible crossing which could be used across the 32,000km network.
The RIBA-organised competition aims to generate new design solutions for the body, which manages most of England, Scotland and Wales’s railway infrastructure including 2,400 footbridges. Proposals will be expected to draw on railway heritage and be suitable for stations, rights of way, and level crossings.
Network Rail’s head of buildings and architecture Anthony Dewar said: ‘Network Rail is committed to promoting design excellence. That’s why we’re challenging the architectural and engineering community to come up with new and innovative ideas for footbridge structures that will be both functional in form and sympathetic to the communities that they serve.
‘The winning design concept will also need to protect and enhance the great legacy of engineering design that is inherent in railway history. We’re excited to see the solutions that will be put forward.’
Network Rail is an arm’s length public body with responsibility for the maintenance and upgrading of the country’s railway network. The organisation is mid-way through a £38 billion investment programme which will increase electrification and capacity on many routes.
Since 2006, Network Rail has installed more than 200 new footbridges as part of the Department for Transport’s Access for All (AfA) programme, which aims to boost accessibility at stations by creating obstacle-free routes from street entrances to platforms.
Recent structures include Knight Architects’ 60m-long crossing in Waltham Forest, and Studio Egret West and Hawkins\Brown’s new East Croydon pedestrian bridge and station entrance.
The latest competition seeks innovative design solutions which challenge presumptions and raise expectations for the quality of future footbridge design across the network. A £20,000 design fund will be awarded to a single winning scheme.
The judging panel – chaired by AJ editorial director Paul Finch – includes Dewar, Rowan Conway of the Royal Society of Arts, Kay Hughes of Khaa, Chris Wise from Expedition Engineering, and Jonathan McDowell of Matter Architecture who will be acting as RIBA architect adviser.
The deadline for submissions is 2pm, 18 September.
How to apply
Visit the competition website for more information
No 1 Aire Street
Tel: 0113 203 1490
Anthony Dewar, Network Rail’s head of buildings and architecture
Why are your holding an ideas contest for new accessible footbridge solutions?
We wanted to hold a design competition to build on the design legacy of our railway pioneers and felt that an open ideas design competition would allow Network Rail to directly introduce creativity into our future footbridge designs.
There has been a perception within the design industry over the last few years, that the list of requirements for building on or near the railway - many of which are in place to keep those using the railway, or living and working nearby, safe - make it difficult to introduce creative architectural design within the railway environment. We wanted to challenge that belief.
As it has been a significant period of time since any competitions for railway footbridge design has been run, we decided to make this an international competition, challenging the global architectural and engineering community to come up with new and innovative ideas for footbridge structures that will be both functional in form and sympathetic to the communities they serve.
The design ideas competition will be held over a single stage, with a design fund of £20,000 to be awarded to the submission judged to be the best response to the design challenge.
What is your vision for the new crossings?
Given that it is unrealistic to think that a one‐size‐ fits‐all approach is appropriate, given the context of Network Rail’s national footbridge portfolio and the varying communities in which they are located, our aspiration is to ultimately generate a catalogue of footbridge designs providing greater flexibility in addressing sites across the country.
The remit we have developed for the competition in conjunction with the RIBA outlines our technical parameters and sustainable design considerations for the competition. We have worked hard to develop the competition remit in a way which expresses the parameters of design within an electrified railway in a written form which is as simple as possible without this being a long list of technical standards which would lead to stifled creativity in competition entries.
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
We want the ‘best of the best’ to apply- practising architects, structural engineers, civil engineers or teams thereof, together with students of these design disciplines.
We strongly encourage SME practices to enter and also students as it may be that the ‘best of the best’ may be undiscovered design talent.
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?
There will be other work commissioned by Network Rail in the future; the details of each of these projects would be released at the appropriate time’
Are there any other recent footbridge projects you have been impressed by?
We are currently developing a footbridge design guidance document which includes examples of best (and poor) practice in international footbridge design, which we will publish next year.