VR HS2 station design - Main 1

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A successful deployment of the virtual reality solution could see it used to design other HS2 stations, as well as buildings that have to manage large numbers of people efficiently

Quick read

➨ Old Oak Common station in North London will serve both HS2 and the Elizabeth line, with a view to handling around 275,000 railway passengers per day
➨ HS2 Ltd is working with CCD Design & Ergonomics and WSP to develop what they are describing as a new solution to improve the experience of passengers
➨ The data collected by CCD will enable HS2 Ltd and station designers to assess and, if necessary, refine designs

The story

Virtual reality is being deployed to develop efficient and stress-free ‘wayfinding’ at a new station under construction as part of the billion-pound High Speed Two (HS2) railway linking major English cities with London.

Old Oak Common station in North London will serve both HS2 and the Elizabeth line (Crossrail), with a view to handling around 275,000 railway passengers per day.

HS2 Ltd is working with design and technology business CCD Design & Ergonomics and engineering firm WSP, the station’s designer, to develop what they are describing as a new solution to improve the experience of passengers finding their way around a transport “super hub”.

Wearing HTC Vive Pro Eye virtual reality headsets fitted with eye tracking technology, three sample groups drawn from members of the public will enter a virtual version of the new station (VRWorldTech is waiting for confirmation on the headset being used).

These passengers will be asked to navigate their way around Old Oak Common to reach meeting points, platforms and to change between HS2 and Crossrail services using the signage included in the current design.

A further session will be dedicated to passengers whose mobility is impaired to explore what further assistance they might need to navigate the station.

The in-built eye tracking technology of Vive Pro Eye will monitor in detail how the eye is drawn around the station’s interior, and whether there are any distractions that might contradict or confuse, all of which could hamper easy and stress-free movement.

This will be paired with emotion sensing software that observes the user’s facial expressions and monitors heart rate changes caused by the visual stimulus of experiencing the station in virtual reality. 

The data collected by CCD will enable HS2 Ltd and station designers to assess and, if necessary, refine designs to help Old Oak Common passengers move smoothly and efficiently around the 100,000 sqm rail interchange station.

A successful deployment of the virtual reality solution could see it used to design other HS2 stations, as well as buildings that have to manage large numbers of people efficiently, including sports venues and concert halls.

VR HS2 station design - Main 2
VR HS2 station design - Signage
The VR solution will test the signage included in the current design

Getting the design right while it’s still on the drawing board

CCD managing director David Watts indicates that virtual reality combined with eye tracking technology and emotion sensing software are crucial to being able to test wayfinding so early on in the construction process.

He says: “Wayfinding is an immersive, multi-sensory task. Up until now we’ve not had the tools to fully test our designs with real people at the early stages of design. Developing this tool will give the project far greater scope to get the design right while it’s all still on the drawing board.”

He adds: “We are also able to explore other ways in which immersive tech can help design from improving accessibility, testing ideas for how digital technologies can assist the experience, assessing the right location for commercial units or advertising or helping staff simulate how they will operate the station.”

Kevin White, technical director for stations at WSP, adds: “With WSP being involved in Old Oak Common’s design for the past three years, we have been able to work with HS2 and CCD to visualise the station in a full virtual environment. The process has brought immediate benefits to the wayfinding that will be fed back into the design, and it has become apparent how this technology can help in many ways throughout the design, construction and operational stages of the station.”

HS2 Ltd innovation manager Heather Donald comments: “The HS2 super hub at Old Oak Common is the largest single-build station to be built in the UK. Up to quarter of a million passengers will use it to connect between HS2, Great Western and Elizabeth line trains each day, so it is vital that its design is fine-tuned to deliver a stress-free step change improvement in the passenger experience.”

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Images: HS2 Ltd

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