Small communities in northern Europe will have to cope with a particular set of challenges that impact daily life for inhabitants and visitors in the near future. These challenges emerge from the increasing density of daily life; the changing tempo’s of the city versus small town life, and the meaning of local place and culture in this changing dynamic.
International Business Development at NS Stations asked Reframing Studio to develop a concept for a multi service environment, based on a vision for small stations in a northern European context. Reframing Studio came up with the ‘Station Activation’ programme to reinstall the station into the heart of the community, with for each station a different, location specific mix of services. Reframing Studio made the outline for a platform to source these services. We developed a step by step approach to involve stakeholders like local business leaders and the municipality in the customisation for a specific location. This way adding to the small station’s viability, either in turnover, in traffic, in local relevance, or with potential for partnerships.
Based on this Station Activation programme NS and RGtects developed the interior for a pilot location in Culemborg, Netherlands, under the name of ‘Stationshuiskamer’ to test the programme and the envisioned interaction with the local community.
How to reinstall small train stations in the heart of their small communities, serving more than travellers alone?
A one-fits-all formula approach will not help the station's viability, since typically small stations in rural villages do not receive enough travellers to support station services on offerings for this target group alone. By offering services that appeal to visitors as well as residents in small communities it will be possible to reinstall the station in the heart of the local society, with a viable business case.
The Station Activation Programme consists of a standard selection of elements and services that provides the baseline service level needed in the station and that ensures recognisability of the concept. On top of this baseline a ‘local activator’, the entrepreneur of the station, is being enabled to deploy an additional service mix depending on his knowledge of the local needs and opportunities. The Local Activator thus plays a key role in the programme as a social catalyst and ambassador of local culture, to sense the local needs and translate them into station services.
The result of this approach is a Programme that starts with the involvement of local stakeholders, the recruitment of the ‘Local Activator’, and the evolution of a service mix that fits the location.
The first results of the pilot in Culemborg show that the concept is as inviting to local initiative as predicted. The interior was furnished in collaboration with the local social workshop and the local furniture manufacturer, Gispen. Local products and produce are sold next to the standard to-go products. In the coming year new pilot stores will be rolled out in Scotland.
The community building vision of the 'Station Activation’ Programme played a part in NS and its international daughter Abellio winning the concession for Scotrail