Information published on 28 September 2017 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 563 - Railway Stations.

UIC Handbook on Smart Stations in Smart Cities

  • Products & Services
  • Promoting
  • Stations and Intermodal Hubs
  • UIC nextstation

This handbook, prepared by the UIC Passenger team, will be distributed at the UIC NEXTSTATION Conference from 19 – 20 October 2017. In the meantime we are pleased to share some highlights from this publication.

Taking a smart approach to this matter will add value to the way stations operate and/or the services they provide. It is all about seeking out new, faster, more effective methods and processes which chime better with the challenges facing cities and railways.

It is also about reducing, as far as possible, the adverse impact of railway business on urban areas and their inhabitants and users (in particular reducing stress and conflict arising from competing uses).

Stations must adapt to their users and their environments. Stations must be able to go the extra mile and their reach should exceed their grasp.

New behaviour patterns result from the influence of technological innovation on users. New products create new needs, and consequently new practices. These in turn create new types of tension requiring new solutions. As well as solving new potential or real conflicts, smart solutions can make the impossible possible.

First of all, it should be pointed out that stations are unique in terms of role, location, services and use, both in terms of time and space. The criteria used to define a smart city also apply to stations. However, the smart city model does need to be adapted before it can be transposed to the railway environment, which has specific requirements.

Just as there are different smart city models, there are also various options to make a smart station. A station manager, who has to cater for local needs, can adapt parts of the model to their particular context.

A smart station is designed to broaden its area of influence in a smart city, via the networks (transport, energy, digital). A smart station should take into account how its railway business will tie in with not only with key societal but also important business-related issues of the future.

Smart stations should both be able to anticipate and respond systematically and quickly to conflicting uses. Smart stations do everything in their power to ensure the role they play in a city goes beyond being a simple transport hub. This means that stations should be a source of innovation, suited to local specificities, which can add extra value.

Making a station smart is about promoting its legitimate place in a city, as the main mode for long-distance transport. It is also about diversifying a station’s commercial activities, to turn it into a successful business model.


The process of dealing with or controlling things or people with the new information and communication technology. The manager seeks constantly how improve his process, going beyond “classical” actions to create new opportunities and respond to new challenge.

Adding value, either through improved features, through for example better design or use of new technology.

Using new technology to facilitate the flow of individuals and information in time and space, using smart information and communication infrastructure.

Smart Management comes from Smart Governance, which itself is based on the Smart City model. Station management promotes railway business by improving the station’s function, making it more attractive, pleasant and efficient. Smart stations listen to what users and those working in them have to say (station managers, employees, users, political institutions, and other infrastructure managers). Smart management is the station manager’s voluntary effort to broaden the scope of the business, in order to anticipate developments that will come with the next inexorable paradigm change (increasing mass mobility, denser passenger flows, station infrastructure user diversification).

A station manager must simultaneously face several challenges: How to improve staff management? How to improve crown management? How to guarantee and improve station security? How to identify and translate into concrete terms user needs? How to make a station profitable? How to improve the integration of the station into the city? How to improve user experience? How to improve user experience for those using the station every day? What can new technology offer stations?

Of course, station managers already face all these challenges, the question now is how to handle them in a smarter way, and how to improve approaches to move towards sustainable development (in every possible way). If stations are sustainable they will have greater legitimacy, not just in terms of their function, but also in terms of expanding their scope of influence as a stimulus to the economy and society.

To achieve this, station managers need to innovate and harness the potential of new economic drivers in cities, and of new technology.

Why make stations more welcoming?

Making a station more welcoming is about managing the reputation of stations, and improving public relations. Stations are a multimodal hub, a space that facilitates exchange, and is easy to access, and share.

A station is also the image that a city will have of the railways, and so should be exemplary, recognisable and unique. A smart station will be able to draw maximum benefit from this position. Among the best examples of success are Saint Pancras and the Grand Terminal Central in New York. These stations have created Community Managers who operate Instagram accounts. This may appear frivolous, but these accounts are a means to promote stations services and innovations, and a channel for sharing the best stories collected from users. It is an opportunity to the promote the station not only as a component of the railways, but also as a place where it is fun to be. In addition, it is a fabulous marketing tool, available at almost no cost. Followers can send in their comments via the Instagram platform and managers can then respond to their questions and interact with them.

Architecture and public space

Stations should be modelled on their city, unique, attractive, appealing and symbolic. Railway stations have witnessed many revolutions over history (industrial, railways, technological, cultural and historical).

Intuitively, and despite all these changes, it is clear that stations share some universal features, recognisable to all. Based on this premise, architecture is a brilliant tool to reinforce the place of a station within a city.

As mentioned earlier in the manual, the image created by a station is central to the attractiveness of a city, and it is a piece of infrastructure that marks the transition between the city and what lies beyond. Smart stations should contribute to the local economic structure and its design is sometimes a trigger for this.

The city of Bilbao experienced an economic crisis in the 1990s. In order to relaunch the economy, a museum project emerged: that of building the Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao. The museum was built in 1997 and is a satellite to the mother establishment in New York. The architecture of this building and its international renown helped Bilbao and its surrounding area emerge from this decline that had lasted several years.

“The GUGGENHEIM effect” was also the seed of success for cities such as Venice, Metz and Lens. All these cities harness the momentum created by similar projects to inject new life into their region. This has been helped by a boom in short-stays that perfectly match the nature of railway transport.

These examples help us realise that stations can play a similar role. Alongside High-speed rail development, railway stations have a structuring potential that needs to be harnessed. To use this momentum however, smart stations need to grow in harmony with the urban space and the economic environment they occupy.

Smart Environment and Smart Design should be taken into account for station construction and renovation projects. The idea of a Smart Environment stems from sustainable development. Smart stations should not be a burden on their surrounding environment. The term ‘environment’ encompasses ecology, society, culture, and the urban environment, but also the functional environment of the station. A Smart station should not be a source of conflict, rather it should help to resolve any tensions that may be a legacy of its history.

Smart Environment is about knowing how to incorporate the station into a viable and sustainable ecological policy. In the current context of excessive energy consumption and wasting of natural resources, smart stations, with the support of smart cities must act.

Smart design is about rethinking infrastructure, buildings and other facilities and equipment that make up smart cities and smart stations. Designer engineers aim to add value to each component constituting a smart station (outside building, internal features, furnishings).

This topic only makes sense if it is part of a collective effort involving all players in the local mobility chain: a station is only one of the cogs in the mobility machine, that depends just as much on other modes of transport as they depend on railways.

Stations are a pivotal hub for transport. Whether in a major urban environment or in a rural setting, stations form the focal point for at least one other mode of transport: the car. In urban areas, stations are frequently also the meeting point for up to three or four other modes of transport too (cars in particular, or chauffeured vehicles, buses, bicycles, trams, metros, Mass Rapid Transport, electro-mobility and pedestrians).

More smart mobility means easier access to railway infrastructure, to improve quality of service. This can be achieved only through cooperation between the relevant players, which does not mean loss of each party’s independence, but rather a more open mind-set, which is more fitting for a smart city.
Cooperation should make it possible to better meet mobility needs.

SMART MOBILITY is above all about facilitating mobility, regardless of individual differences. It is also about having the will to reduce the negative impact of mobility, such as pollution, accidents, congestion, conflict of use (electro-mobility versus pedestrians on pavements). SMART MOBILITY is about offering more sophisticated and more choice in intermodal mobility, by working in association with mobility players, to sharpen the competitive edge against private car use. SMART MOBILITY is also about improving modal shift and setting the stage for a win-win strategy involving mobility players and users.
To achieve this, smart cities and smart stations have to tackle two facets of mobility: information mobility and mobility of individuals. Two independent and yet complementary factors.
Just as a station is an intermodal transport hub, smart stations are also hubs of information exchange for operators, business players and station users. Sharing information is therefore central to this model.

The handbook will be available after the NEXTSTATION conference.

For further information please contact Clément Gautier, UIC Passenger Department: