Wayfinding

A responsive signage system for the new London Bridge station

London Bridge is the fourth busiest station in the country, bringing around 56 million passengers into the city each year. For this vital transport interchange to remain functional during its redevelopment, the station was transformed into a series of stages over a five-year-period.

This case study, from design and wayfinding contractor Maynard, explains how wayfinding solutions were adapted to keep passengers moving around the station as routes changed on a regular basis during the project’s construction phases.

Watch this interview with Hayley Branston from Maynards who talks us through how the standards of wayfinding in stations were applied at London Bridge.

Adapting to change in an evolving environment

The London Bridge project was unique within Maynard’s experience. Rather than focusing exclusively on the permanent condition within the new station, the project encompassed wayfinding solutions for each stage of the lengthy construction programme. As the station constantly changed in form and layout, so did the routing of passengers and their confidence in navigating the complex and evolving environment. As such, our challenge was to ensure that the station signage adapted with each construction stage and that large number of passengers continued to be provided with clear and consistent information until the completion of the station works. So, the question for us became: in a station that experiences a high volume of regular commuters, how do you encourage people who have routine patterns of usage to adapt to change?

An important element which allowed us to give this challenge the attention it deserved was the establishment of temporary wayfinding as a separate work stream.

In the initial stages, much of the work involved exploring how the current signage needed to be updated as the platforms were taken out of service. A key component from the beginning was communication. The client was always ahead of the game, issuing information about any changes in advance. Additional support to the signage system was provided during the opening of each new stage. Staff and project volunteers were placed on the ground ready to help the huge volumes of passengers passing through the station during morning and evening peaks. Maynard staff volunteered as ‘travel champions’ during these periods; experiencing the passengers’ responses in real time and engaging with instant face-to-face feedback.

A flexible and innovative approach

During the later construction stages, the routing around the station changed on a daily basis, with peak and off-peak flows differing. This was a huge challenge for the wayfinding system. In such a dynamic environment, we had to look for a flexible and innovative response. Large format screens were installed at the main thresholds between the rail station and the Underground to allow flexibility in the messaging. However, flexibility as to where the signs were place was also required. To respond to this diversity of needs, we proposed a series of moveable digital poster boards called WISI screens that could be used to support wayfinding at different times of the day. The screens needed to be used both internally and externally with limited access to power and data services. The weatherproof solution meant the displays could be situated externally, and the units could be charged overnight so that no power connection was required during operating hours. Wi-Fi enabled the content displayed on the screen to be updated remotely and instantly using bespoke software.

As a result of their success and positive feedback from stakeholders, these digital applications were subsequently incorporated into the final wayfinding solution. These elements were a great addition to a wayfinding scheme that had already embraced and integrated technology in the form of digital screens above the gateline with crosses and arrows to aid flows, digital escalator booms to show the direction of travel and integrated CIS products at concourse and platform level.

Incorporating user feedback into the final wayfinding scheme

Whilst the temporary works had a relatively short lifespan, they were integral to the way the public experienced the space, leaving a lasting impression of the project and its overall success. The staged approach also provided us with opportunities to test solutions. As parts of the new station concourse opened and the station came closer to its final state, a great deal was learned from both testing and observations on the round. This process gave us the opportunity to take on-board feedback from passengers, staff, train-operating companies and transport-user groups during the temporary stages and incorporate this into the final wayfinding scheme. Central to the success of the project was the openness to try new things and willingness from the wider team and client to make changes based on learnings and feedback.

Project legacy

When Maynard began working on the project back in 2011, it was hard to image how we would get to where we are today and comprehend how satisfying it would be to see the project complete after all the hard work and collaboration. Whilst the final wayfinding scheme is the legacy, it was the effort, research, testing, consultation and collaboration involved that made it what it is today. We learnt an immeasurable amount as a team, creating long-lasting relationships. We look forward to our next challenge.

“One of the biggest operational challenges during the redevelopment of London Bridge station was effectively managing 11 different station configurations during the construction stages. Wayfinding and signage were critical to ensure this worked. It was great to work closely with the team from Maynard throughout the project, as this allowed us to incorporate the lessons learned from each stage into the final wayfinding strategy and implementation.” Sarah Kennedy, Lead Development Manager, Network Rail.

Further information
For more information on this Learning Legacy case study please email contact@thameslinkprogramme.co.uk