Event Overlay Planning for Rail Stations

Event Overlay Planning for Rail Stations


D Taylor, A Howie, Movement Strategies, UK


To help station operators meet the challenges of major events, Movement Strategies has established a process for the design, development and validation of event-related passenger management overlays.


When major events take place, rail stations are often required to accommodate larger crowds of passengers than they are used to – and many of these passengers behave differently from regular station users. To help station operators meet these challenges, Movement Strategies has established a process for the design, development and validation of event-related passenger management overlays.

This paper will demonstrate how our approach makes best use of available data, a series of modelling techniques - deployed at appropriate times in the planning process – and live testing of management proposals. Experience and lessons learned from examples such as the London 2012 Olympic Games and sports events in Scandinavia and the Middle East will be given.

Key considerations for event overlays at existing stations include:
• the safety of all passengers, particularly in the context of platform edges and overcrowded conditions;
• the way in which business-as-usual passengers will be accommodated with the minimum of disruption;
• management of event-related passengers, including routing strategies and queuing systems where necessary;
• the avoidance of train service delays;
• dependencies between different stations and lines;
• train service timetabling and platform changes;
• the involvement and agreement of all stakeholders, including event organisers, infrastructure owners and transport operators;
• the impact on surrounding streets or other pedestrian routes, and the management of those spaces;
• accessibility and the provision of step-free access;
• emergency evacuation planning; and
• real-time analytics (especially for multi-day events).

It is important that specific management plans respond to these issues, because the scale of the challenge associated with one-off major events can be so different from ‘normal’ operations. Challenging – and immovable – deadlines mean that early involvement of crowd movement analysis is needed to inform development of proposals that can work, with sufficient time to allow for testing and finalising resource requirements.

Initially, spreadsheet-based techniques are used to assess the station capacity when event-related arrivals and departures are added to ‘business-as-usual’ rail demand. Sufficient flexibility is built in to test different strategies (e.g. one-way flows, introduction of holding areas), interactions between different stations or lines, and to respond to changing questions and demands from stakeholders.

This numerical analysis is particularly effective in creating a consensus where there are several organisations involved in management of the station and surrounding area. Stakeholder workshops therefore form an important part of the process. They are used to ensure that the overlay design, passenger routing strategies, queuing mechanisms and staffing/signage requirements are understood and supported by all organisations with responsibility for the event and for station Safety Cases.

These steps are generally sufficient to reach an agreement on a draft event management strategy, and to verify that the capacity is available at the station to manage the forecast levels of demand. Pedestrian simulation modelling of the station(s) in event mode can then be used to test that the finer details of the plan can work – and to test what active management is required to operate the strategy successfully. Models showing the plan in operation can powerfully illustrate problems – and solutions – to stakeholders, as well as being employed as a training tool for staff.

Assumptions used in the modelling work are, where possible, compared with real-world observations. This allows adjustment of model parameters in response to understanding of real-world behaviours implicit in those parameters, in preference to adopting generic standards. Live test events are also a key opportunity to review the performance of the event management system and to reveal instances where what happened was different from the outcomes anticipated by preceding spreadsheet or simulation modelling. The paper will provide examples of how test event observations have led to changes in the management plan.


Association for European Transport