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Footbridge Design Ideas Competition

Footbridge Design Ideas Competition by RIBA

The Footbridge Design Ideas Competition is seeking design concepts to further improve the legacy of rail pioneers and enduring examples of their footbridge designs across the UK rail network.

Background and Design Challenge

In launching the competition Network Rail is seeking to re-affirm its commitment to good design across the nation, and the delivery of excellent ordinary. 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, the aspiration is to generate a catalogue of appropriate footbridge designs affording greater flexibility in addressing sites across the country. The intention of this Open Ideas competition is to progress the winning entry through detailed design development post Network Rail’s funding settlement for the operating period 2019-2024 resulting in a new addition to the catalogue – it is expected that this will be undertaken via Network Rail’s new Architectural framework and the competition winners details will be included in the remit for this detailed design work. In addition to this competition, under a separate work stream, Network Rail will also refresh its current standard design (adopted following a competitive tender process in 2007) via a more traditional procurement approach. Further options to develop additional appropriate footbridge designs in the catalogue will be explored in due course to ensure excellent design is at the heart of everything Network Rail undertakes.

Footbridge Llanfairpwll station, Anglesey
Example of pre-British Railways’ lattice-work footbridge [Image: Network Rail]

Network Rail owns about 2,400 footbridges providing access across the railway for both passengers at stations and people using rights of way. Most of these footbridges are single-span structures, with the majority having a main span of 16m or less. Over a third of Britain’s railway infrastructure is now electrified and the structures required to span the railway often represent the most significant change in the local landscape since the introduction of the railway itself. Electrification of the network has enabled faster trains with reduced carbon emissions, but has also resulted in perceptibly taller footbridge structures which take longer to cross and have a greater visual impact.

As part of the Department for Transport’s Access for All (AfA) programme, Network Rail has installed 200 footbridges since 2006. The AfA funding initiative was established to improve accessibility at railway stations through the creation of obstacle free routes from station entrance to the platform. Alongside this programme, further, accessible, bridges have been installed as part of Network Rail’s high risk level crossing closure programme and its cyclical Renewals workbank. Each of these three key programmes of work will be continued post Network Rail’s funding settlement for the operating period 2019–2024.

Hooton, Merseyside
Access for All footbridge [Image: Network Rail]

Despite the processes and deliverables of each of the above programmes being the same — a new footbridge, there is, currently, some disparity from a design perspective in how the programmes are approached. Having a catalogue of appropriate designs should result in greater alignment with a more recognisable design identity

Ideas developed for this competition should be innovative, challenge presumptions and significantly raise expectations for the quality of future designs while also giving due consideration to practicality, construction and maintenance. In developing their proposals, Competitors are encouraged to consider how their fully accessible footbridge designs may be adapted for use in other settings such as replacements for level crossings.

The competition is open internationally to practising architects, structural engineers, civil engineers or teams thereof, together with students of these design disciplines. In doing so, the selection process is seeking ideas to contribute towards and influence new standard designs rather than a solution that will necessarily be implemented. 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.

An explanatory Memorandum in response to all other clarification queries will be made available to competitors on registration at –


Leyland station, Lancs
(Leyland station, Lancs) Access for All footbridge [Image: Network Rail]
The anticipated competition programme, which may be subject to variation, is as follows:

Competition launch & registrations opens – Fri. 22 June 2018

Deadline to raise Questions on the Brief – Tues. 10 July 2018, 17.00 (BST)

Memo issued in response to Questions – Tues. 24 July 2018

Deadline to apply for Unique Registration Number – Thurs. 13 Sept. 2018, 17.00 (BST)

Deadline for receipt of Design SubmissionsTues. 18 Sept. 2018, 14.00 (BST)

Evaluation of Design Submissions commences – Wed. 19 Sept. 2018

Judging Panel meeting W/c – Mon. 08 Oct. 2018

The above Timetable is indicative only and Network Rail reserves the right to amend the Timetable or extend any period at its discretion.  Registered Competitors will be notified by RIBA Competitions of any changes made to the Timetable.

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