Technical details
Network Rail
Lead Designer
Leeds, UK
Colt Construction
Conventional Rail

Revitalising Rail Spaces

SYSTRA worked with Network Rail to deliver architectural design and project management for this ambitious renovation programme for the southern concourse in less than one year.

The work involved the reinvention of the late 1960’s wooden roof and updates to the station entrance, Southern concourse retail space, ticket gateline and public WC facilities. New lighting and a gold entrance façade adds to the passenger experience, and all completed whilst the station remained open to the public 24/7.


The architecture and engineering team at SYSTRA worked collaboratively, driving an ambitious programme and ensuring that the station renovations went beyond expectations. 

The project delivered additional design elements to create a wow factor for the 30 million passengers travelling through Leeds every year, delivering an aesthetically pleasing finish and a more secure, future proof station.

To maximise first impressions a gold metal façade was chosen, a transparent roof was created to allow natural daylight to flood the concourse and human circadian rhythmic lighting was incorporated into the design to mimic natural daylight. Natural lines were created inside the concourse to encourage the ‘flow of traffic’ through the space, subliminally encouraging passengers to move in the direction of the gateline.

With a brief from Network Rail to remove the dark and dated wooden panelling from its roof and ‘bring in more light’ to the concourse, the project team knew they had their work cut out to transform the space within a 24hr functioning station in just 11 months. To add to the complexity, the brief outlined the requirement for removal of asbestos, electrical cabling and oil-based paint finishes.

The designers team developed a solution using Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) to allow natural daylight to flood through the roof whilst remaining strong, durable and long lasting. This translucent fluoride-based polymer sheeting offers notable high strength properties over a wide temperature range and high resistance to corrosion. The additional bonus of this material is that it’s light weight and quick to install, making it an ideal solution for the short timescale. The final result sees an impressive pillow design over two tiered levels, providing optimum amounts of light streaming through into the concourse.


In addition to the transparent roof, the team knew that on a dull overcast day, natural light would not deliver the full effect of the teams vision. To overcome this, the design incorporated a first for the railways by using a new lighting system, Human Circadian Rhythm Lighting (HCRL). Previously only used in the UK in a handful of care establishments, such as hospitals, HCRL mimics the light patterns of natural daylight with a cooler white light in the mornings and warmer yellow light in the evenings.

The technology behind the new lighting identifies with the human body’s need for rhythmic light patterns akin to the changing daily natural light cycles. In doing so, HCRL allows passengers to experience the same effect inside the station as that of the natural light patterns, resulting in the body clock remaining in sync and encouraging positive moods.