For a lighting designer, a day of talks about lighting for the railways wouldn’t necessarily be a first choice. It is easy to assume that those involved in railway lighting are hard-nosed engineers; guys for whom the aesthetical imperative usually gets short shrift. But how wrong that lighting designer would be!
Straight from the off there was a strong whiff of design in the air. Ivan Perre of London Underground explained how the light flow around ticket halls is to be managed according to what was being lit, rather than in the traditional uniform fashion.
Perre also went on to note how the (im)practicalities of high-level access to lighting above escalators is shifting towards a resolution that, while it may be practical, is also very attractive for those of us who actually use the Tube.
This consideration of how technical issues are being resolved in ways that actually benefit the rail user was a common thread throughout the day.
Clients are becoming increasingly rigorous when it comes to ensuring that they are specified the best products, especially with continued budget tightening in the public sector.
Leon Smith spoke to the conference about his role heading up the Pro-Lite initiative within London Underground. The process has been going on for a couple of years now and he was able to announce that the first tranche of products have been approved for use in London Underground projects.
Every conference needs its blue-sky thinking slot and pure LiFi’s Nikola Serafimovsky’s talk on how the long awaited Li-fi revolution could befit the rail network certainly piqued everyone’s interest.
Work is currently going on to introduce Li-fi into certain Paris Metro stations. With a specially-enabled mobile phone, you’ll soon be able to be guided along the notoriously confusing Paris network via data transmitted from an LED lighting installation directly to your device.
Serafimovsky also put the fear of cyber-security breaches into everyone’s minds – or at least those people engaged with investigating the use of Li-fi installations at railway stations. It was the news that a company had lost millions of customer credit card details to a hacker who broke in via the building’s online ventilation control system that woke everyone up.
We finished the day off with some sharp prods at standards and regulations. There was a unanimous view, from a panel that included David Mooney of Atkins and Jeff Shaw of Arup, that standards rarely meet the on-the-ground demands of a live project. Although, there was also an appreciation of the guidelines they provide.
If the general feeling amongst the rail community is that independent specialists, be they designers or engineers, have a role to play in lighting improvements, then we can imagine standards being challenged on a regular basis.
But who on the client side will be prepared to sign off on a variation of standard? There’s a strong, and very recent, echo of project specifications being pulled apart by ‘value engineering’ and profit-hungry contractors – all of whom said that it would be alright on the night.
So: when it comes to signing-off on a non-standard scheme, the question needs to be asked: do you feel lucky? Well, do you?
Lux conferences rely on the support of sponsors and our continued success is due, in large support to their generosity. We wish to thank the following companies for helping to make this year’s Lighting for Rail conference such a great event.