The Elizabeth Line

London’s first accessible railway is the result of the biggest infrastructure project in a generation. Now known as the Elizabeth Line, Crossrail is the new high frequency, high capacity railway for London and the South East of England. Making traveling in and around London quicker and easier, the Elizabeth Line reduces crowding on the London transport network by carrying more than 1,500 passengers on each train during peak periods and around 200 million passengers each year. 

Maynard Design was commissioned to design a line-wide wayfinding identity and product family to unite all 41 individually designed stations for a seamless passenger experience. Bringing to life the strategy for the line-wide design meant pulling together the aesthetic, historic, functional, technological and economical delivery of this new mode of transport for London: a mode that, with a 120-year design life, will stand the test of time, the projected growth in population and accommodate future technology upgrades. A line-wide strategy demanded design components that would act as common threads to the passenger experience across all stations. Focused on the below ground tunnel environments, we introduced a common design language across a family of architectural components. Our products included cladding, platform edge screens, seating, lighting, digital advertising, signage and customer information systems. 

As part of the common components team collaboration was central to curating one seamless, fluid architectural space. Each individual component was designed to feel integrated with the fabric of the architecture. We developed a sign family based on existing standards, and detailed design guidelines for all members of the sign family including information hierarchies, type sizes and layout principles. It was important that the line-wide system feel intuitive to all users, not just those already intimately familiar with the city. Intuitive environments were enhanced by a robust and consistent wayfinding system. Zoning of departure and arrival information as well as progressive disclosure allows passengers to be provided with the right information, in the right place at the right time. 

Consistency across stations allows for predictable and easy to find information. Wall-based signage is curved and set into the cladding, sinking into the decluttered architectural space. Early project engagement with manufacturers allowed for the development and incorporation of advanced new printing technologies for glass signage. Full-scale prototyping of the station environment allowed ideas to be tested, evaluated and refined, with people at the center. 

A life-size ‘mock-up’ of a station platform was built to enable the design team and stakeholders to understand the scale and detail of the tunnel environment. The mock-up was visited by 1,500 people – clients, contractors, design teams and real users. Accessibility was at the core of our prototyping process. It was a unique opportunity for a project of such immense scale, and was used as an extremely successful communication tool. Each product was user tested to be robustly inclusive, seats were ergonomically trialed and sufficient color contrast levels were utilized for all environmental furniture and signage. 

After 13 years, the Elizabeth Line opened to the public and has proven its worth not just for its passengers but for the everyday station teams as well. The network exemplifies the city through a language of familiar signs and symbols, adapted to curate a seamless journey through the network’s cavernous architectural spaces. Winding between the foundations of skyscrapers, beneath the Thames and through layers of history, the Elizabeth Line is recognized as the jewel in London’s public transport system crown. Since opening, the Elizabeth Line has supported 300 million journeys. 1 in 6 of all UK rail journeys are now made on the Elizabeth Line, equating to 24 trains per hour, one every 2.5 minutes.

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