New Rail Stations And Lines

This measure was fully updated by INSTITUTE FOR TRANSPORT STUDIES (ITS) in 2014 under the CH4LLENGE project, financed by the European Commission.


New rail stations refer to new rail stations on existing conventional railway lines that provide new places for people to board and alight from trains and hence increase the geographical accessibility of the rail network. New lines will include a number of new stations linked by the new line to the existing rail network. Several types of new stations can be identified, these are:

  1. New stations on existing local, suburban lines – these tend to be located in suburbs and hinterlands of urban areas and facilitate trips from the residential area to the city/town centre, with access to the station tending to be by foot.  In some cases such stations serve destinations such as new retail or leisure developments.
  2. New interchange stations on existing lines – these tend to be found in dense urban areas where several railway lines cross each other, or where there is a network of inter-connecting bus routes. Such a station provides opportunities for trips beyond the city centre and possibly for journeys involving integration between different modes.
  3. New strategic park and ride or parkway stations on existing inter-city lines – these stations tend to be located at the edges of urban areas to serve as large scale park and ride facilities providing access to the centre of urban areas. Whilst the station itself might be small the adjoining car park would be large.
  4. New stations on new lines – where a new railway line or system is built it will, naturally, be associated with the building of a series of new rail stations. The nature of these stations will depend largely on the nature of the new line or system of which it is part.

New stations are principally introduced to increase the number of journeys made by rail. However there often exist some secondary reasons behind their opening such as a desire to reduce car traffic or to encourage economic growth. Constructing a station is expensive (at least £500K for a simple two platform local station) and the justification required tends not to be met purely on financial grounds. Therefore a package of secondary benefits often needs to be identified to enable new station investment to go ahead.

The evidence shows that new local rail stations draw most of their passengers from within an 800 m radius and this has tended to define the size of the catchment area served by any one particular station. The potential for a new station will depend upon its distance from existing stations, the size of the catchment population, engineering constraints (local terrain) and operational constraints (are there sufficient spare train paths). Whilst new stations will provide new travel opportunities and an alternative to the car (so improvements in adverse externalities) they are also likely to worsen conditions for current rail passengers given that the new station will tend to be served by existing rail services, e.g. by adding to journey times and overcrowding. New stations may also encourage more decentralised patterns of land use and so longer distance travel.

Pictures of trains and stations

Introduction

New rail stations provide new places for people to board and alight from trains and hence increase the geographical accessibility of the rail network. New rail lines extend this principle by linking a number of new stations to the existing rail network. They have a number of objectives, including reducing road congestion through the diversion of car journeys to rail, increasing travel choices, stimulating economic development and generating increased revenue through increased rail-use.

Terminology

New rail stations are new stations on existing heavy, or conventional, railway lines. New stations built as part of the provision of light rail are covered in a separate section on light rail systems.

Types of New Rail Station

It is helpful to distinguish between four different types of new rail station:Small station with car park adjacent

  • New stations on existing local, suburban lines - it may be possible to identify sites for new stations on existing railway lines as they pass through the suburbs and hinterland of a particular urban area. These are usually built to serve residential areas. In some cases such stations serve destinations such as new retail or leisure developments. Such stations will generally have one platform in each direction - for example, one platform for travel into the centre of the urban area and one platform for travel back out of, or away from, the centre of the urban area. If space allows, a car park may be built adjacent to new rail stations, providing travellers with the opportunity for park and ride; such car-parking provision will often be relatively limited other than at certain key stations which are situated close to major road connections.
  • New interchange stations on existing lines - in dense urban areas there may be opportunities to site new rail stations at the junction of two or more railway lines or bus routes, providing travellers with the opportunity to interchange between the different services. Where they are situated on the junction of two railway lines, stations will have several platforms to provide for interchange between the different lines. Again, where space allows, provision may be made for park and ride.
  • New strategic park and ride, or parkway, stations on existing inter-city lines - there may be opportunities to site new rail stations at the edges of urban areas on existing inter-city railway lines, to serve as a large scale park and ride facility for access to the centre of the urban area. The station itself may be relatively small, with one platform in each direction, but would have a large car park with good road access serving a wide catchment area, for example adjacent to a motorway junction.
  • New stations on new lines - where a new railway line or system is built it will, naturally, be associated with the building of one or, more generally, a series of new rail stations. The nature of these stations will depend largely on the nature of the new line or system of which it is part.

Technology

There is a wide range of design features which will need to be considered in connection with the building of a new rail station. Overall station designs range from the basic halt, with a platform for both directions, through stations with more developed waiting and ticketing facilities, up to staffed stations. More detailed considerations include:

  • The need to comply with local topographical constraints - that is whether the lie of the land and the alignment of the railway line mean that the station needs to be below or above street level;
  • The need to comply with local space constraints - that is whether development density in the area means that the station needs to be below ground;
  • The method of crossing from one platform to another - the main three options being level crossing, overbridge or underbridge/tunnel.

Why introduce new rail stations and new rail lines?

01The underlying argument for introducing new rail stations is to increase the number of journeys made by rail by increasing the geographical accessibility of the railway system. Research shows that rail stations draw most of their passengers from within an 800m radius (Preston, 1987) and this has tended to define the size of the catchment area served by any one particular rail station, though this is extended where the station has a park and ride facility.

On any particular railway line, there is often considerable scope for opening new rail stations. The potential for new stations will depend upon:

  • The distance between existing rail stations - given that the catchment area for any one station tends to be within an 800m radius, there may be potential for a new station where the distance between existing stations is greater than 1.6km;
  • The size of the population adjacent to the railway line - where a railway line passes through a built-up area, there is likely to be some potential for a new rail station; work by ATOC (2009) suggests that a minimum population of 15,000 is needed to justify a new station;
  • Engineering constraints - where lines go through tunnels or deep cuttings, or where physical access to the railway line is difficult for some other reason, a new station is likely to be very expensive to build;
  • Operational constraints - where there are difficulties with train paths or minimum speed restrictions it is likely to be difficult to open a new rail station.

Related to this, new rail stations may make conditions worse for existing rail passengers by reducing the average speed of the train as a result of it stopping more frequently. They may also worsen conditions for existing passengers by increasing the complexity of the system and by increasing the number of people on any one train, hence contributing towards 'overcrowding'.

Demand impacts

New rail stations and rail lines provide new travel opportunities, as well as providing an alternative to car travel, so they are likely to impact on the total demand for travel by all modes, as well as on the demand for travel by rail and by car. The new travel opportunities will contribute towards accessibility-related objectives and towards economic growth, whilst the diversion of car journeys to rail will contribute to environmental, economic efficiency and, to a lesser extent, safety objectives.

Several studies have shown that, while around 60% of new usage comes from bus, around 20% is transferred from car use, and 20% newly generated (Nash, 1992; Cristobal, Garcia and Gonzalez, 2001).

Responses and situations
Response Reduction in road traffic Expected in situations
Where rail passengers set out slightly earlier or later to fit in with the timetable.


Where the rail line follows a different alignment from that of the road.

 

Where the journey to the origin or from the destination rail station involves a diversion "off-route".

Where a new station or line provides access to a different retail, leisure or, in some cases, work location.
New stations are unlikely to influence overall trips.




Where travellers switch from car to rail.

 

Where travellers switch from other public transport, walking or cycling to rail.

 

Where existing rail passengers observe a drop in the speed, comfort or quality of the rail service, resulting from the additional stops and passengers, and switch to car.

Where the main driver in a household decides they no longer need a car of their own.
Where the household decides that there are benefits from living closer to the rail system.
= Weakest possible response = Strongest possible positive response
= Weakest possible negative response = Strongest possible negative response
= No response

Short and long run demand responses

Demand responses
Response - 1st year 2-4 years 5 years 10+ years
-
  -
  Change job location
- Shop elsewhere
   
   
- Public transport
- Walk/cycle
  -
  -
= Weakest possible response = Strongest possible positive response
= Weakest possible negative response = Strongest possible negative response
= No response

Supply impacts

New rail stations, on their own, do not add to the capacity of the rail network. Their specific supply impact is to enable additional access to, and hence additional use of, the existing network. That is, a new rail station at point C, between points A and B, enables the existing rail service from A to B to make an additional stop at point C for passengers to board and alight. New rail lines do add to the supply of rail capacity, but only within the limits of the capacity of the existing lines to which they connect.

Financing requirements

The cost of opening new rail stations can vary substantially. A single new station may be able to be constructed for €600k. At the other end of the spectrum, a new rail line may cost upwards of €10m. ATOC (2009) reports costs for seven new stations in the range £2m to £6m, and for 35 potential new rail lines in the range £3m (where a freight line already exists) to £200m. Cost may therefore be a substantial barrier to implementation.

Expected impact on key policy objectives

The impact on objectives will depend on the balance of impacts on demand and of short and long run effects. The increased travel opportunities will contribute positively to equity and social inclusion objectives, whilst the transfer from car to rail will contribute positively to economic efficiency, environmental, safety and economic growth objectives. If carefully designed, there should be little negative environmental impact.

Nevertheless, the impact of new rail stations, as with rail infrastructure projects in general, on wider environmental sustainability in the long run is uncertain. By reducing levels of car use they reduce energy consumption and hence CO2 emissions and reduce pressures for further land-take for road infrastructure; however, they may encourage more decentralised patterns of land use and longer distance travel, as well as attracting currently suppressed car traffic to use the road space freed-up by the transfer from car to rail. Furthermore, whilst new rail stations and new rail lines are likely to have positive equity implications, these benefits are limited to the corridors directly served, and any resulting reduction in bus services may disadvantage certain groups of travellers.

Contribution to objectives

Objective

Scale of contribution

Comment

  Time savings should be significant but will depend on the speed, frequency and reliability of the rail service and to what extent road congestion is alleviated.
  There will be an increased level of pedestrian activity around the new rail station and any reduction in congestion should have positive impacts.
  Reduced road traffic levels will have a positivie impact, but the extent will be determined by the potential to attract motorists to switch to rail.
  New rail stations provide for increased mobility both for those with and without a car.
  Rail is a relatively much safer mode than road so any transfer to rail will involve an improvement to safety.
  New rail stations will generate a proportion of totally new trips, some of which will be for purposes related to economic activity; in addition, diversion of trips to rail may contribute to increased productivity, due to people being able to make better use of their time spent travelling.
  New rail stations have relatively significant capital investment costs which have to be incurred in advance of any revenues which should arise subsequent to the station opening; these investment costs may be recouped in part in the longer term through the additional revenue arising from additional rail passengers.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Expected impact on problems

The transfer from car will reduce congestion, provided that overall demand does not increase.

Contribution to alleviation of key problems

Problem

Scale of contribution

Comment

Congestion

By transfer of some car journeys to rail, though there may be some attraction of car traffic if existing rail services become slower or more overcrowded.

Community impacts

New stations can stimulate community cohesion.

Environmental damage

By reducing emissions of NOx, particulates and other local pollutants from car traffic.

Poor accessibility

By creating new opportunities to access the rail network and discouraging car-oriented development.

Social or geographic disadvantage

By creating new opportunities to access the rail network and discouraging car-oriented development, though some may be disadvantaged if bus services along part of the rail route become unviable and are withdrawn.

Accidents

By reducing car traffic volumes.

Economic growth

By improving an area's accessibility, by freeing up time previously spent in congestion and by improving the efficiency of the local transport network.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Expected winners and losers

Winners and losers

Group

Winners/Losers

Comment

Large scale freight and commercial traffic

To the extent that car traffic is reduced, freight and commercial traffic will enjoy improved journey times and journey time reliability, with possible benefits for their fleet utilization.

Small businesses

To the extent that car traffic is reduced, small businesses who need to travel around the local area will enjoy improved journey times and journey time reliability; small businesses close to stations may also benefit.

High income car-users

High income associated with high value of time and, hence, highly valued time savings from any reductions in congestion.

People with a low income

People with lower incomes would tend to use bus more than rail and there is a danger that improvements to rail may abstract from local bus services and make them less viable, perhaps leading to some reductions in the level of bus services.
All existing public transport users Those within this group living in the vicinity of the new rail station will experience a dramatic increase in their access to public transport.

People living adjacent to the area targeted

Existing public transport users will be affected in a number of different ways; some will enjoy additional travel opportunities, some may experience over-crowding on their rail service, some may experience reductions in the level of competing bus services.

People at higher risk of health problems exacerbated by poor air quality

People living near the new rail station will be provided with additional choice in how they travel.

People making high value, important journeys

Any time savings resulting from reductions in congestion will be highly valued.

The average car user

To the extent that car traffic is reduced, the average car-user may enjoy some improved journey times and journey time reliability.
= Weakest possible benefit = Strongest possible positive benefit
= Weakest possible negative benefit = Strongest possible negative benefit
= Neither wins nor loses

Barriers to implementation

Scale of barriers
Barrier Scale Comment
Legal Planning approval will generally be required, though usually no need for legislation or public inquiry.
Finance Costs vary considerably from the simplest station to the longer new lines. Capital costs will typically be a barrier to implementation.
Governance Investment will typically involve the rail operator, and strategic transport authority and the local planning authority.
Political acceptability Generally a politically favourable intervention.
Public and stakeholder acceptability Opposition will typically be limited to those whose environment is affected and to competing operators.
Technical feasibility Technical barriers are only likely of there are site or signalling constraints.
= Minimal barrier = Most significant barrier

Several studies of new rail stations were conducted in the early 1980s and are reported in Preston (1987) and reviewed in Preston (2001). Since these are now somewhat dated, we focus here on two more recent studies. DfT (2010) reviews the methodology for predicting demand for new stations and, in passing, records the patronage attracted by 23 new stations in the UK. ATOC (2009) assesses the potential of 35 proposed new rail lines and seven new stations in England.

The study for the UK Department for Transport

DfT (2010) is the final report of a study by Steer Davies Gleave on station usage and demand forecasts for newly opened lines and stations.  It identified 40 new stations in the UK which had been opened since rail privatisation in 1995.  The consultants were able to access business cases for 23 of these, and to compare the demand predicted in the business case with actual usage in 2008/9.  Of these 23, 11were on new rail lines in the commuter catchments of Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow; the others were on existing lines in London and the South East, Merseyside, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire.

Actual annual patronage in 2008/9 ranged from 13,000 (for Aylesbury Vale Parkway) to 1.22m (for Shepherd’s Bush in inner London). All but six stations had annual patronage in the range 100k to 500k.  The study did not record the previous travel patterns of those using the new stations but, based on the earlier work by Nash (1992) it seems likely that around 20% of these users will previously have travelled by train.

The study focused on differences between predicted and actual usage. For nine stations actual usage was within +/- 20% of the forecast, and for a further five it was within +/- 40%.  The extremes were 45% of forecast usage at Aylesbury Vale Parkway, where planned development had failed to materialise, and 451% above forecast usage for Ebbw Vale Parkway, where the actual service provided differed substantially from that assumed, and the forecast took no account of regeneration in the catchment area.  It then developed guidance for improved forecasting. In doing so, it noted that new stations had widely differing characteristics.  Its recommended method takes account of:

  • competition from existing nearby stations
  • the quality of the planned rail service
  • access by car, including provision of car parking
  • population characteristics, and their propensity to use rail
  • the spatial distribution of the population.

Contribution to objectives

Contribution to objectives
Objectives Scale of contribution Comment
  Most of the new stations will have attracted between 20k and 100k car trips per year, hence reducing congestion. Travel times for rail users will typically have been shorter than for car use, but this will have been offset in some cases by some increase in travel time for existing rail users.
  As a result of reduced car use.
  As a result of reduced car use.
  New stations are likely to have improved access for those in the catchment area. Those in the Cardiff travel to work area in particular were in deprived areas in need of regeneration.
  As a result of reduced car use.
  Earlier estimates suggest that 20% of new rail trips are generated, thus contributing to economic activity.
  No direct information is provided on costs, but earlier studies suggest costs in the range £2m to £6m per station.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

The ATOC forecasts

ATOC, the UK Association of Train Operating Companies, conducted a review (ATOC, 2009) of opportunities for new rail lines and stations in England.  Opportunities in Scotland and Wales were not considered, since the devolved governments were adopting different policies on rail development.  The report noted that new stations and new lines on pre-existing rights of way, were relatively quick and simple to build, with typical timescales of three to six years from proposal to completion.  It also reviewed the practical factors, including signalling, train paths, delays to existing services and abstraction from other services which need to be considered in developing proposals.

It focused on urban areas with populations in excess of 15,000, and identified 75 in England which had no rail service.  Of these, 20 were not readily connectable, and a further 20 were close enough to an existing station to permit provision by bus services or park and ride.  The remaining 35 could be connected by opening new lines and stations at a cost ranging from £3m (where an existing freight line could be upgraded) to £200m where the new line required substantial civil engineering works.  Demand was forecast using methods similar to those proposed in DfT (2010).  The report presented a cost benefit analysis for each new line, including capital and operating costs and revenues and travel time and accident savings.  Of the 35:

  • 9 had a benefit/cost ratio (BCR) in excess of 1.5
  • a further 5 had a BCR in excess of 1.0
  • a further 14 had a BCR in excess of 1.0 excluding capital costs
  • only 7 could not be justified on any of these grounds.

The report suggested that the 14 which could only be justified once capital costs had been met could be pursued provided that government was willing to invest to promote economic regeneration, as was happening in Scotland and Wales.

Of the 20 which could be served by a park and ride service, seven were identified as potentially being served by new stations at a capital cost of between £2m and £6m.  All of these were found to be cost-effective, with BCRs of between 1.7 and 10.2.

While this study was predictive rather than empirical, it suggests similar impacts on objectives to those outlined for DfT (2010) above.

The two case studies presented here, and the earlier work by Nash (1992) and Preston (2001), confirm the conclusions of the first principles section. The contributions to objectives and problems are repeated here.

Contribution to objectives

Contribution to objectives

Objective

Scale of contribution

Comment

  Time savings should be significant but will depend on the speed, frequency and reliability of the rail service and to what extent road congestion is alleviated.
  There will be an increased level of pedestrian activity around the new rail station and any reduction in congestion should have positive impacts.
  Reduced road traffic levels will have a positivie impact, but the extent will be determined by the potential to attract motorists to switch to rail.
  New rail stations provide for increased mobility both for those with and without a car.
  Rail is a relatively much safer mode than road so any transfer to rail will involve an improvement to safety.
  New rail stations will generate a proportion of totally new trips, some of which will be for purposes related to economic activity; in addition, diversion of trips to rail may contribute to increased productivity, due to people being able to make better use of their time spent travelling.
  New rail stations have relatively significant capital investment costs which have to be incurred in advance of any revenues which should arise subsequent to the station opening; these investment costs may be recouped in part in the longer term through the additional revenue arising from additional rail passengers.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Contribution to problems

Contribution to alleviation of key problems

Problem

Scale of contribution

Comment

Congestion

By transfer of some car journeys to rail, though there may be some attraction of car traffic if existing rail services become slower or more overcrowded.

Community impacts

New stations can stimulate community cohesion.

Environmental damage

By reducing emissions of NOx, particulates and other local pollutants from car traffic.

Poor accessibility

By creating new opportunities to access the rail network and discouraging car-oriented development.

Social or geographic disadvantage

By creating new opportunities to access the rail network and discouraging car-oriented development, though some may be disadvantaged if bus services along part of the rail route become unviable and are withdrawn.

Accidents

By reducing car traffic volumes.

Economic growth

By improving an area's accessibility, by freeing up time previously spent in congestion and by improving the efficiency of the local transport network.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Appropriate contexts

New stations and new rail lines will typically be found in the outer suburbs, where rail is more appropriate than bus for journeys to the city centre, and in free standing towns in the commuter belt. Occasionally disused rail lines can offer a new public transport route in urban corridors.

Appropriate area-types
Area type Suitability
City centre
Dense inner suburb
Medium density outer suburb
Less dense outer suburb
District centre
Corridor
Small town
Tourist town
= Least suitable area type = Most suitable area type

Adverse side effects

The only obvious adverse side effects relate to existing rail users, who may find their services slower or more crowded, and existing bus users, who may find their service reduced if new rail services abstract bus patronage.

Association of Train Operating Companies (2009) Connecting communities: expanding access to the rail network.  London, ATOC.

Cristóbal, Garciá and González (2001) Barajas Airport-Madrid city connection: improving accessibility. Proc 28th European Transport Conference. London, PTRC.

Department for Transport (2010) Station usage and demand forecasts for newly opened lines and stations.  London, DfT.

Nash, CA (1992). The age of the train? University of Leeds Review 35. Leeds, University of Leeds.
Preston, J.M. (1987) "The Potential for Opening New Local Rail Stations". PTRC
Summer Annual Meeting. Seminar B. Public Transport Planning and Operations pp.181-
193.

Preston (2001) New Local Rail Stations and Services: Twenty Years On, proceedings of World Conference on Transport Research, Seoul.