Opus, with JV partner Arup, are working with Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) to improve the Welwyn Garden City bus station interchange.
Focussing on the customer experience and future growth in passenger numbers, the Opus team developed a bold new design that will completely change the way the station operates and feels.
The current station is sandwiched between the brick façade of a shopping centre and a multi-storey car park. Passengers wait at poorly lit stops with inadequate shelter. Some of the stops are on an island in the middle of the station, resulting in passengers having to cross bus lanes and wait as buses pass either side.
Working with landscape architects and specialists in urban realm, the Opus team has developed a design that provides a single waiting area, enclosed in a new bespoke shelter. New lighting, more seating and information terminals will enhance the experience of passengers. A new 'saw-tooth' style bus stop arrangement provides for more bus services and means passengers will no longer have to cross bus traffic to reach their stop. Level access to the low-floor bus fleet will dramatically increase ease if access for passengers of all ages.
Terry Douris, Cabinet Member for Highways, said: "We believe that these changes will improve Welwyn Garden City bus station to ensure the safety, ease of access and comfort of passengers and bus drivers."
The new saw-tooth layout will require drivers to reverse away from the stop; something that originally concerned operators. To get them on-board, the Opus team arranged for a disused Council car park to be used to a mick-up of the station layout. Bus operators brought along their own bus and driver to try out the new design. No longer just an idea on a plan, they could see in practice how the new station would operate. This trial run, and incorporating a warning system to alert in-coming drivers when a bus in the station is reversing, have meant that once sceptical bus operators are now fully behind the project.
Consultation with both passengers and bus operators was vital to the success of the project. To reach the maximum number of passengers, the project team placed less emphasis on traditional means of consultation - exhibitions, posters and leaflets - and concentrated more on internet-based communication, using an online questionnaire on the Council's website and QR codes so that anyone, at any time, could complete the consultation on their smartphone; something easily done while waiting for their bus! This approach to communicating consultation proved very successful and is now being used for all of the Council's station improvement projects.
Currently in the final design stage, the £850k project is due to be constructed in 2017.