Design Ideas Competition

A New Timepiece for the Railway

Register Competition Documents

Design Competition Challenge

It’s time for a new timepiece on the British railways system

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Network Rail, working in partnership with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Design Museum (London), invites proposals for the design of a timepiece to display and communicate time across the UK national rail network.

Network Rail has purposefully elected to use the generic term ‘timepiece’ rather than ‘clock’ for indicating and measuring time in a room, on the wall of a building, or on a computer screen. Network Rail wishes to avoid the conventions and connotations associated with referring to such instruments as ‘clocks’. Through the design ideas competition process, Network Rail is seeking to explore and interrogate how time and the passage of time is best depicted on the UK national railway.

Network Rail has new wayfinding that uses its new Rail Alphabet 2 typeface (development pathway illustrated in Figure 1). However, it does not currently have a unified design for the display and communication of time across the rail network and associated significant built environment estate. Network Rail is accordingly seeking innovative approaches for the provision of a new suite of timepieces to display and communicate time.

With future design development, the winning proposals for the timepiece will need to be scalable and adaptable, such that they can be potentially deployed (in various configurations) across a wide range of different formats, uses, contexts and settings. This will include deployment at the planned new generation of small to medium-sized modular railway stations (which together with their connection to 21st Century communities) were the focus of Network Rail’s 2020 Re-Imagining Railway Stations competition (see Figure 2). This was the second design competition run by Network Rail in association with the Royal Institute of British Architects and followed a 2018 competition for the design of a new generation of accessible footbridges. These competition-led initiatives all form part of Network Rail’s re-affirmed commitment to good design and the consistent delivery of excellent ordinary across the UK rail network.

Figure 1

The development path

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Figure 1 - The Development Path

Competition Format


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The Design Ideas Competition is open internationally to practitioners within the fields of art, design, engineering and/or architecture. Submissions are also welcome from students (and recent graduates) at higher education establishments who are studying these design disciplines.

Inter-disciplinary collaboration is encouraged, as is collaboration between individuals and organisations of different size, expertise and experience. Please refer to Section 10a (Eligibility) for further details. Section 6 provides details of how to Register for the Competition and be provided with supporting information.

The Competition will conclude with Short-listed Competitors being invited to attend a clarification interview to present their proposals and answer questions from the Evaluation Panel. Each short-listed Competitor will receive an honorarium of GBP £7,000 (+VAT) on conclusion of their involvement in the Competition.

Please refer to Sections 10 through 11 of the Competition Conditions for further details.

The Design Ideas Competition will be held over two phases.

  • Phase One:

    Submission of initial design concepts. These will be judged anonymously by an Adjudication Panel on the strength of the proposals and response to the challenges set by the rich and demanding Brief. Up to five sets of proposals will be selected to proceed to the second phase of the competition.

  • Phase Two:

    Anonymity will be lifted at the second phase, with short-listed Competitors invited to develop their proposals in response to general and proposal-specific feedback on the Phase 1 design submissions and the more detailed technical requirements of Phase 2.

  • Post-Competition:

    It is anticipated that future development and implementation of the proposals judged to be the best overall response to the Competition will be undertaken by Network Rail without further input of the author(s) of the winning design submission. Accordingly, Network Rail intends to pay GBP £35,000 (+VAT) for the purchase and acquisition of all existing and future Intellectual Property rights in the winning design. For further details please refer to Section 11h.

Figure 2

7N Architects’ winning design for the Re-Imagining Railway Stations Competition.

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