All aboard the office on platform 1?

Stations across the country are about to open 'drop-in' office spaces. Nice idea - but are we the only ones sensing disaster?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 12 Dec 2011
We’ve all been there: your meeting finishes a couple of hours before your train is due, thus forcing you to hover in a draughty station coffee shop sipping a slightly burnt latte waiting for a seat to become free so you can sit down, get your laptop out, access the wifi and actually get down to some work – by which time, it’s time to get the train. But that’s about to become a thing of the past, if a new idea by Network Rail is anything to go by: the railway operator has just signed a £40m deal with office space provider The Office Group to provide ‘flexible’ office space at stations.

Apparently, the idea of the tie-up is to ‘enhance passenger experience by creating stations that are destinations in their own right’ (although depending on whether you still have to leave the station to get a sandwich for under £10, it might not catch on).

The first one will open just off platform one at Paddington station, with enough space for 250 people to work – so no more hovering around – and will include ‘stylish’ meeting rooms (read: pleather chairs), superfast broadband connections and even receptionists ‘to deal with mail, telephone and switchboard enquiries’. It’ll also feature an airport business lounge-style communal working area. Ooo-err.

Network Rail says it’s trying to ‘tap into the growing mobile working trend’, which is laudable enough – particularly given the number of people who, having been made redundant, are choosing to start their own businesses. And it seems obvious to have them in stations – as Network Rail director of property, David Biggs, pointed out, ‘passengers are already able to eat, drink and shop at our stations, so it was only logical that we offered them the opportunity to work here too’. And now the winter’s upon us, with all the delays and cancellations, they’ll need somewhere to kill time…

Problems, of course, may arise when autumn leaves/the wrong kind of snow make the floor a bit slippery. Or when engineering works on the IT systems overrun. Or if there’s overcrowding and half the people trying to work have to stand with their noses pressed into each other’s armpits. Or if there’s a platform alteration and the whole office is forced to suddenly move to another space at two minutes’ notice…

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