QUICK-FIRE INTERVIEW:

Mike Luddy, Stations Director, HS2

“Our stations will need to anticipate what Millennials and Gen Z generations want” – Mike Luddy explains how stations of the future must meet both operational and customer demands

In the first installment of Accelerate: Rail’s speaker spotlight series, we had a chat with Mike Luddy, Stations Director at HS2. Mike has a wealth of experience working on station re-development schemes and has been tasked with designing and developing HS2’s new stations. Passionate about making stations destinations in their own right, Mike shares his vision for the future.

You were responsible for devising and implementing the regeneration strategy for St Pancras Station and are now Stations Director at HS2. How has thinking about design and operational priorities evolved over the two projects?

In some ways the principles are the same whilst on the other hand what we deliver will need to be vastly different.

The success of what we did at St Pancras was that it was rooted in truly understanding who the customers of the station would be. We invested heavily in research and profiling our future customer so that what we offered them was what they actually wanted. It’s worth remembering that back at the start of the 2000’s when we were designing St Pancras that most major London stations where pretty unpleasant places with a very basic offer of customer service, retail and catering. Our research showed that our customers aspired to a far higher quality of brand and offer so we delivered on their needs. We were also able to design in a much larger quantum of retail and hospitality space plus add artworks and entertainment spaces so that the station became a destination in its own right whether or not you were catching a train. It’s why the station some 13 years after re-opening still outperforms any other station in the UK in terms of passenger satisfaction and commercial performance.

For HS2 we will take that sort of learning and that of other great transport projects into our own designs. The founding principle has to be that the stations are operationally excellent. Easy to use, easy to navigate around and all within a fantastic environment that makes you want to spend time in the station rather than just sprint through and get out of as soon as possible. The quality of our designs and infrastructure will be so important. On top of that we will need to reflect on how customers have changed since St Pancras was opened in 2007. Our stations will need to anticipate what our new generations want (Millennials and Gen Z) and our research to date shows that what they demand is actually quite different. It’s exciting to see our plans starting to take shape.

“The founding principle has to be that the stations are operationally excellent. Easy to use, easy to navigate around and all within a fantastic environment that makes you want to spend time in the station rather than just sprint through and get out of as soon as possible.”

In the past decade there has been a real push to design stations that will be at the heart of communities and transport hubs facilitating MaaS. How can these goals be achieved?

These are two of our core principles of our HS2 Stations Vision.

Our stations must act as an enabler for regeneration in the community within which they sit. Again as we saw with St Pancras the successful development of that station was the springboard for the Kings Cross area and this is a template to follow for all 8 of our HS2 stations. However we need to do far more than has been achieved before and make our stations a positive heart of their communities. We need the local community to see the stations as “their” station a place for them to use and enjoy.

Similarly integration is a key objective for everything we are doing. We can’t have a situation where the customer feels like they are being passed from one organisation to another in a completely disjointed fashion as we see today. So we will use technology and working through true partnerships to resolve what is a common industry problem. Our early work with First Trentalia as our West Coast Partner shows promising signs that we can successfully collaborate to offer our customer a seamless experience.

Looking ahead, how do you foresee technology transforming stations in the future?

I think adopting technology successfully will be at the core of our success but we definitely don’t have the answers yet. We are 9 years from opening our stations so in many respects we don’t really know what will be the technology of 2029. After all if we look back 10 years smartphones had really only just been invented whereas now we can’t live without them! What we have to do is design flexibility into our stations so that whatever the technological solution that is required in the future we are able to adapt. My mantra with our designers is all about providing flexible solutions and not boxing us in to solution that might be redundant when we open.  

 

And to finish off, what session are you most looking forward to attending at Accelerate: Rail 2020?

I think the Williams review session will be fascinating. That along with the review of our own programme are pretty important to the industry going forward.

Interview conducted by Sasha Cotton, Conference Producer – Accelerate

Mike Luddy is the Stations Director at HS2.

He will join be leading a session titled ‘Transforming stations to meet 21st century needs’ at Accelerate: Rail, which will take place on 10 March 2020 at Hilton Tower Bridge, London.

Accelerate: Rail is the UK’s leading conference offering unique access to leading figures from TOCs, ROSCOs, Network Rail and a whole host of transport bodies from across the UK.

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