Station to station

Chief reporter

The Engineer

I’ve just returned from the Transport Museum in Covent Garden where the press launch for the Future of Station Design conference was held.

The conference, which will take place at the museum April 29 next year, will bring together industry leaders and engineers with ideas for developing more modern stations designs that rely on cleaner, more energy efficient technologies.

The conference visionary Chris Williams-Lilly, a sales manger for Emergency Power Systems, said there will be plenty of opportunities for innovation in the rail sector as preparations are being made to transform rail stations before the 2012 Olympics. There’s also the opportunity to build new stations completely from scratch with the new Crossrail route, he added.

Williams-Lilly’s presentation was supposed to be followed by a rousing speech from rail enthusiast and actor Mark Williams—who might be known to your kids as Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter films—yet it was announced he had to pull out at the last minute due to swine flu. We were assured, however, he will be present—and less contagious!—at the conference next year.

The event today was hardly devoid of celebrity support. Maggie Philbin of Tomorrow’s World fame was there to explain her role as a promoter of the conference. She also shared some stories of some of the most futuristic stations she visited while presenting Tomorrow’s World. The best, she had to admit, was her visit to the International Space Station. While not the ‘real’ space station, it was only the one the Russian cosmonauts trained on, and not at all related to railways, Philbin tried to make the point that space age innovation can have earthbound applications.

Showing her true quirky side, she also let us take a peak inside her handbag, which like that of most London gals weighed half a ton and was filled to the brim with seemingly extraneous objects.

The unique piece in Philbin’s bag, however, was a heavy T-shaped cross section of a rail track. The piece was collected during one of her first segments for Tomorrow’s World in which she reported on a new ‘gizmo’ designed to cut through steel rail like butter. 

What does she do with this hunk of steel now? ‘I use it as a book end,’ she admitted to the crowd.