Artist's impression of a future interchange

+ New and evolving travel patterns mean that interchanges are about far more than just travel and must offer a wider range of experiences, opportunities and amenities.

Data growth, flexible working, and changing expectations are shaping new travel habits. Now interchange design must respond.

It used to be thought that the rise of data and the mobile internet would cut the amount people travel. It hasn’t, although it has changed travel patterns and it’s also enabling us all to work more flexibly. 

Interchanges need to respond to this. They need to become places you work at, rather than just places that help you get to work. They need to offer facilities that help people with elements of their lives beyond travel – whether that’s a crèche, a bicycle repair shop, a community hall or pay-as-you-go office space.

I’ve been part of an Arup team working with Metro de Santiago in Chile, the busiest such system in Latin America, to help critically rethink what the metro is for and what should happen there. How can it provide more amenities for travellers? 

Park Station in Johannesburg is Africa’s busiest interchange with a complex web of coach, taxi, pedestrian and rail connections. It’s also a place where the informal and formal economies overlap, and Arup is helping operators and property owners look at how the interchange can help informal sellers move into the formal economy.

This is what interchange design involves today. It can no longer be a single-discipline undertaking, but a trans-disciplinary design effort involving a vast range of skills and underpinned by a robust and sustainable business case.

This will require a new way of thinking about transport. In the future, interchange design will hinge on in-depth thinking about what happens within a series of buildings that make up the interchange. And buildings themselves will need to become increasingly adaptable to accommodate changing patterns of use. 

Maybe this means using new technologies and materials that can be easily reconfigured. It certainly means that countries like the UK, which have ageing infrastructure, face a big challenge. It’s a challenge that requires a radical design response.

People’s expectations of travel have changed fundamentally. It’s time for interchange design to be more than just travel!