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Mind the Gap! Chelsea Student wins Heathrow Express Design Competition

Hayley Wrighton’s winning design for the Heathrow Express competition.
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Published date
13 December 2016

Congratulations to Hayley Wrighton from BA Interior and Spatial Design who has won a unique design competition by creating a bespoke solution to a safety challenge affecting the whole rail industry – the gap between the train and the platform.

Hayley Wrighton’s winning design overcame competition from 21 other students and is planned to be implemented at London Paddington station. Hayley will receive £250 as well as the opportunity to work with Heathrow Express and its partners to put her design into practice.

Hayley Wrighton's winning design for the Heathrow Express competition.

Hayley Wrighton’s winning design for the Heathrow Express competition.

Applying abstract design skills to a real life situation Hayley Wrighton, 21, designed a target-style image which is projected onto the platform to focus passengers’ attention on a safe footing when boarding and alighting a train, reducing the risk of accidents. The design incorporates Heathrow Express branding and includes a way of projecting the image without affecting normal railway operation.

The challenge of the gap between the train and the platform exists at many railway stations across the UK and this pioneering design will lead the way in platform safety. As well as addressing the brief the design overcame the restrictions of not being able to attach items to the trains; platforms or ‘platform furniture’ as well as having to meet health and safety regulations.

After being announced as the winner, Hayley said: “This has completely opened my eyes to how design and safety can work together, I never thought I’d be working on something like this so to win is just amazing. I’ve genuinely enjoyed the process of researching and understanding people’s interaction with my design which I hope goes on to achieve its aim of intriguing people enough to think about the gap. By projecting this image, which is universal and simple, Heathrow Express customers from all over the world should be instinctively drawn to its centre.”

Research during the design process showed people chose to step on the centre of the target image meaning the image can be placed to encourage people to step to a safe place. The design was selected by a panel of rail, safety and design experts who all agreed Hayley’s work was innovative, impactful and applicable to the real world. The Panel included representatives from Heathrow Airport, Heathrow Express and UAL who were highly impressed by the calibre of work on display.

Another of the student designs submitted to the competition.

Another of the student designs submitted to the competition.

Konstantinos Chalaris, a lecture on BA Interior and Spatial Design who led on the project with the students said “Our students managed to understand the spatial and safety implications that Heathrow Express is facing in a short period of time, and responded accordingly with spatial and graphic design proposals that blew us away. I personally couldn’t be more proud of them.”

The competition follows earlier innovation by Heathrow Express which was the first to install industry leading gap fillers which almost completely eliminate the gap at Heathrow Airport stations and therefore risk to passengers. Where these industry-leading devices have been installed, the number of incidents has been reduced by 85% however curved platforms at Paddington prevent the company from using Gap Fillers at the central London station.

Keith Harding, panel member and Operations Director at Heathrow Express said: “We’ve been blown away by the creativity of the students who, with a skill set very different to me and my railway colleagues, have shone a new light on how we can tackle a long standing industry challenge. Congratulations to Hayley who is a deserved winner and thank you to all the students who put their designs forward and to the University for taking on the project.”

Hayley Wrighton with members of the judging panel.

Hayley Wrighton with members of the judging panel.

The judging of final designs took place on Tuesday 6 December 2016 at the Chelsea College of Arts, UAL, which is just three miles from the Heathrow Express terminus at London Paddington. The initiative was kick started by Lewis Yourdi, Head of Drivers at Heathrow Express who hosted a visit by students at the station in October before they spent eight weeks researching ideas and perfecting their designs. Heathrow Express will now work with the university and industry partners to implement the design while satisfying existing regulations.

Find out more about BA Interior & Spatial Design at Chelsea College of Arts.