HS2 quiet spaces: a new accessibility standard and technical specification designed to protect mental health

The shape of a head drawn with white chalk. Colourful scribbles are drawn where the brain would be to symbolise neurodiversity.

HS2 Ltd has proposed an innovative and exciting new standard which it intends to implement across its upcoming railway systems called the “HS2 quiet spaces specification”.

The specification, a health and safety design standard, sets out rules by which designers constructing railway stations must abide to fulfill HS2’s inclusive design approach – and details requirements for quiet spaces for religious and non-religious travellers, staff and visitors.

Existing standards recommend that quiet spaces are provided, however, these are insufficiently developed to allow consistency across HS2 infrastructure. HS2 Ltd therefore commissioned the Phase 1 Engineering Delivery Partner (EDP) to research user requirements, determine space provisions, and develop a specification for use by station designers.

The document represents another huge step leap forward for UK public transport when it comes to access and inclusion. The standard – as one would hope, could potentially influence the development and construction of other rail projects, and is expected to have a lasting impact on the health and well-being of thousands of disabled people who are expected to use services which adopt the standard.

A unique trait about this particular document is that whilst existing standards recognise the need for quiet spaces in public buildings there is currently no guidance on how to size or design them in UK legislation.

Specifications in terms of design include an emphasis on a “neutral” look and feel which would emphasise inclusion to those with different religious beliefs as well as accessibility for different types of neurodiversity. 

Another element key to the specification is allowing different types of users to be accommodated at the same time whilst avoiding potential conflicts which might arise if they had to use the same room. To ease demand at peak times, it was proposed that informal quiet spaces are implemented for use on station platforms when busy to ensure that quiet rooms are not overpopulated.

The document was designed by a small group of inclusive design experts, human factors specialists and architects from HS2 Ltd and EDP supported by a wider pool of multi-discipline expertise. The foundation for its development is rooted in requirements under the Equality Act 2010, as well as elements of BS8300-2:2018 – ‘Design of an accessible and inclusive built environment’, ‘Network Rail’s Design Manual NR/GN/CIV/300/04, and a few other texts.

A dimly lit multi-sensory room containing multi-coloured bubble tube lamp, fairy lights, fluffy stress balls and other sensory materials.

If you own a facility or are part of an organisation that is considering installing Quiet Room(s), get in touch with Direct Access today. Our Consultancy team will be able to deliver an access audit that determines whether your site could reasonably install one, ensuring that you take the steps to not only do the right thing but open the door to the benefits that come from creating an accessible and inclusive environment for all people. Previously, we were responsible for the installation of the first Quiet Room on the UK Rail network (“The Calm Corner” at Crewe Railway Station).

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