Finalists Announced: Aesthetic Overhead Line Structures for the UK Rail Network

The successful finalists in the international design competition for new, aesthetically pleasing designs for the gantry and cantilever structures on the UK rail network have now been selected.  The competition launched by the rail industry’s FutureRailway, in conjunction with HS2 Ltd and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in December 2013 concluded with two intense days of judging this week.

An event was held last night (7th May) in the Great Hall at the National Railway Museum and the finalists announced as: 

Bystrup Architecture, Design and Engineering, Denmark for their HST design

COBE, Denmark for their Tomahawk design

Moxon Architects with Mott MacDonald for the Integrated OLS design

IDOM UK Alan Baxter & Associates and SEMI were also selected as Highly Commended

David Clarke, Director of FutureRailway commented:  "It has been a fascinating and enjoyable process and it was very clear to the panel that every shortlisted team had put a huge amount of hard work and dedication into their designs.  We have selected three worthy finalists and I look forward to seeing each design developed further during the coming months."

Mark Howard, HS2 Ltd Head of Power and Traction said: “I am very impressed by the high standard of the designs in this competition.  All those shortlisted have really understood the technical practicalities whilst coming up with eye-catching structures.  HS2 will be innovative and reflect the very best in 21st century design.  I look forward to developing these ideas further and perhaps one day seeing them alongside the UK’s much needed high speed rail network.”

The exhibition of the ten shortlisted designs in the Great Hall at the National Railway Museum features scale models of each design and will end on 12 May.  It has already generated a great deal of interest amongst the general public with over 600 comments received on the different design approaches.

The finalists will now use the development funding to undertake detailed technical development of their design and consider the route to market. 


Notes to Editors:

RIBA Competitions deliver variety, inspiration and value through expertly run competitive selection processes.  For further information please visit

FutureRailwayis the delivery team working on behalf of the cross-industry Technical Strategy Leadership Group (TSLG) to implement the Rail Technical Strategy. FutureRailway incorporates the activities of the former Enabling Innovation Team which was set up by the rail industry to accelerate the uptake of innovation. Our mission is to offer support to practical cross-industry demonstrator projects, but also seeking out innovative ideas and proposals from across the industry. Our approach is to: understand the challenges that industry faces; connect potential innovators with these challenges; and, where necessary with potential funding. The team is hosted by RSSB, and reports into TSLG, and is supported by the Rail Delivery Group, RSSB’s Board as well as the Department for Transport.

HS2 Ltd
 are the company responsible for developing and promoting the first phase of the high speed rail network from London to the West Midlands – undertaking the engineering, design and environmental design for this.

Summary of the shortlisted designs:

The High Speed T - 'HST'
Bystrup Architecture, Design and Engineering
The High Speed T Mast reduces the overhead rail line to two elements; a triangular cable network carrying the power, and the aesthetic T-shaped mast which supports twin systems serving adjacent tracks.

High speed twin rail lines require less land with a single line of T masts between tracks, than with traditional masts either side. There are therefore no masts forming an obtrusive barrier between the track edge and its surroundings.

Tomahawk - a design family
Tomahawk is a family of overhead line structures that minimizes the visual impact of the entire line. This is achieved by reducing the overall height, reducing the number of structural elements and by using contemporary materials and manufacturing techniques.

By Keeping It Simple and Straightforward (KISS), the end product is buildable and well suited for its purpose. The simple design will also work visually when repeated hundreds of times throughout the landscape. 

Integrated OLS
Moxon Architects with Mott MacDonald
The form of these masts is simple - slender and tapering, the design reduces the visual impact in the landscape.  The Integrated OLS scheme simplifies the components of the power line support equipment, replacing insulating pots with built-in insulating properties through the use of a densified laminated wood.

Highly Commended:

Needle System Adjustable Overhead Line System
IDOM UK limited with Alan Baxter & Associates and SEMI

Needle System is designed to minimise visual intrusion in environmentally sensitive areas and to complement the contemporary cutting-edge design of new HS2 stations.

Conceived as a kit of parts, the Needle System uses a generic mast design that can be configured for twin-track as a simple cantilever, but can also be used with multi-track gantry configurations. It utilises structural profiles which are compatible with a wide variety of standard overhead line equipment components.

The full shortlist in alphabetical order are:

  • Bystrup Architecture, Design and Engineering, Denmark (with two designs shortlisted)
  • COBE, Denmark
  • Grimshaw
  • Gorton, Paul, Scheuvens + ARUP
  • IDOM UK Ltd with Alan Baxter & Associates and SEMI
  • Lariko/Urbanski
  • Moxon Architects with Mott MacDonald
  • PWA
  • Ramboll UK

The National Railway Museum, York is open seven days a week from 10am – 6pm.  Admission is free.  For further details please visit

Posted on Thursday 8th May 2014
Posted on Thursday 8th May 2014