A 15-year programme installing check-in gates at rail stations across the Netherlands has led to improved comfort and safety for train passengers. It has also had far-reaching consequences for station design and organisation.

A team from Royal HaskoningDHV has been involved from the start of the programme. Having assisted with initial specifications and siting of the gates, we were asked to design and manage the implementation across the station network. The programme has benefitted from our considerable technical expertise and the ability to adapt and respond to wide-ranging requirements. Coordinated by Building Technology, we are now reaching the end of the programme, having installed the gates in nearly a quarter of the country’s stations, covering over 90% of all journeys.

Solution introduces structured approach to station design

Rail operators and the government had decided gates were needed to improve the safety of train travel by addressing the issue of fare avoidance. What started as a project to put gates into stations has had a much wider impact - on ticketing, ICT systems and the whole approach to station design.

“A special feature of our solution was that it addressed the organisation of train stations, which was unusual at the time. Until then for example, if a new ticket machine was required, it would typically be placed where there was space rather than where it was most useful for passengers,” said Arjan Hagedoorn, Project Manager. “We changed this approach and made a structured plan. We developed the concept of the entrance domain and the travel domain, identifying which facilities are needed and how to organise them within each domain.”

Requirements vary enormously between stations

From this overall concept, the team needed to tailor the design and installation for each individual station. The requirements varied enormously between stations. In some, shops needed to be moved and new entrances made. Some stations are important national monuments, so these required sympathetic adaptation and considerable discussion with the relevant authorities. Some stations incorporate public routes like underpasses and these too involved discussion and compromise.

Each successful design needed to embrace all these parameters and involved considerable engagement with stakeholders - of which there were many. Every final design went to a steering committee and, once approved, we submitted license applications to the relevant municipality and ProRail. Where additional permits were required, we organised these too. After receiving the licenses, we took care of all the architectural and civil engineering work up to the final step of putting the gates in place. At this point, responsibility was handed over to the station.

All the expertise in house to address what was needed

“Embedding the check-in system has been a formidable job. We were able to make it a success because we really understood the theory and had all the expertise in house to address whatever was required. We know the processes, the companies and the systems,” said Arjan. “We have an integrated knowledge of all the parts – even down to the small details, like changing ticketing machines and camera systems.”