TfL reveals how to design the “ideal” Tube station

New guidelines from Transport for London and Studio Egret West set out how to design London Underground stations.

The new Oxford Street entrance for Tottenham Court Road Tube station, designed by Acanthus Architects
The new Oxford Street entrance for Tottenham Court Road Tube station, designed by Acanthus Architects

Transport for London has published the London Underground Station Design Idiom, a set of standards that shows how to design the “ideal” Tube station.

The guidelines have been developed by architect Studio Egret West, which is also working on design projects at Camden Town, Oxford Circus, Southgate and King’s Cross Tube stations.

According to Studio Egret West the document “recognises and appreciates the great design heritage that already exists; it inspires great design in all new projects, regardless of scale. At its core is a belief that good design and its implementation require a holistic approach and cannot be achieved in a piecemeal fashion.”

The studio says that the guidelines come as London Underground is in the process of “dramatically changing” its operating model, to bring staff out of ticket offices and into ticket halls, and therefore creating more commercial spaces in in the station.

Map showing the different station designs across the Tube network
Map showing the different station designs across the Tube network

It adds that the design principles are the result of consultation with staff at all levels of London Underground – from front-line workers to director level – and covers everything from small interventions such as repainting through to full station refurbishments.

Gareth Powell, director of strategy for London Underground and chief operating officer of London Rail, says: “The London Underground Station Design Idiom has one simple aim: to bring good design to the forefront of our thinking. Good design should be the driver of decision-making, should permeate every level of the organisation, and should, ultimately, be celebrated by everyone. It doesn’t have to cost more; it’s an approach and an attitude of mind that thinks both broadly and carefully about what we do.

He adds: “If we embrace the idiom’s principles, our customers and staff will thank us for it both today and in years to come.”

The ideal station


The document outlines the design principles behind the “ideal” Tube station. These include giving a consistent approach to materials, lighting, advertising and retail throughout the station to make it feel like a “whole”.

The guidelines also call for a considered use of lighting, both to aid orientation and also to focus attention on platform edges, signage and advertising.

Station exteriors


The guidelines call for “eye-catching” station entrances that also seamlessly link to the public realm.

They suggest that glazing should be used on station entrances to bring as much natural light in as possible, while the TfL roundel should be used as a design feature on the station façade.

Ticket halls


Tube station ticket halls should be “atmospheric and not sterile spaces”, according to the guidelines.

The document calls for use of as much natural light as possible, while materials should be in “calm and natural tones”, while edges and obstacles should be highlighted using contrasting colours.



Routeways in Tube stations should use dark floor material with contrasting skirting, the document says, while entrances should be framed with light.

Lighting should accentuate the curve of the space, while modular panels should be used, with services concealed behind them.



The guidelines suggest that escalators use “impact advertising”, which would run the length of the escalator.

Lighting is again a key element, with suggested designs including a glow around the entrance portal to draw people to the escalators, with more functional lighting integrated into the side panels.



Key design elements for Tube platforms include platform edge lighting, and lighter materials to provide visual contrast at the edges.

Products and services should be arranged evenly to give a sense of order and rhythm while Tube line diagrams should be offset from entrances to encourage people to move down the platforms.

External platforms


According to the guidelines, external platforms should follow similar design principles to underground platforms.

This includes platform-edge lighting and contrasting floor materials, as well as canopy covers and concealed lighting to wash down walls.

The 2015 palette


For new station updates, the document outlines a consistent range of colours and materials.

These include corporate blue and light grey for colours, with textured cast concrete features and stainless steel woven mesh ceilings.

All images are from the London Underground Station Design Idiom. You can read the document in full at

Discover more:

New Tottenham Court Road interiors aim to “enhance” Paolozzi’s designs

• New tube train designs inspired by contemporary London

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