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Central Hall exhibition

When Central Hall opens in 2025, it will unite our site, and provide a stunning welcome and reception area for our visitors, including a café overlooking the new museum square, a shop, and a flexible event space.

We have always been good at bringing the past to life here; in preserving and conserving and celebrating the achievements of the past. But a new Railway Futures gallery in Central Hall will help us to link that past with the railways and the technology of today, so that we can inspire young people to shape the future.

Vision 2025

Central Hall is part of Vision 2025, our ambitious plan to transform our museum—to become the cultural anchor of our changing neighbourhood, as well as a world-class visitor attraction. Vision 2025 is made up of a number of connected projects, including revitalised green spaces, a reimagining of our Great and Station Halls and a new interactive gallery, ‘Wonderlab’.

Vision 2025 goes way beyond creating new buildings. It will safeguard the collection, diversify our volunteer team, create new jobs, reinvigorate our heritage buildings, provide impressive open green spaces and embed this museum at the heart of its community.

We already welcome 750,000 people to the museum every year, serving the people of York, as well as many visitors from all over the UK and around the world. Central Hall is part of a vision that will help us better engage with our community as well as attracting 1.2 million visitors every year, bringing in new audiences and aiming to inspire the next generation.

York Central

We are poised to become the cultural anchor – the heartbeat –of the York Central development, which is one of the largest city centre brownfield regeneration projects in Europe. York Central is a 45-hectare development created in partnership with Network Rail, Homes England, City of York Council and the museum. It promises to transform transform this corner of the city, redeveloping former railway land to create up to 2,500 homes. The National Railway Museum already employs around 250 people, as well as being home to 400 volunteers; York Central’s commercial quarter will create up to 6,500 additional jobs.

As part of the wider York Central plans, outline planning approval was granted in 2019 for Central Hall and we are preparing detailed plans ahead of submitting a Reserved Matters planning application at the end of 2021. This exhibition is designed to share those plans with you, and to invite your thoughts, your ideas and your feedback. Once you have had a chance to look around, you can fill out a comment form online or at the Central Hall exhibition in Great Hall.

Design concept

Architects rendering of a public square outside the Railway Museum
Central Hall rises proudly above Museum Square, referencing locomotive roundhouses and drawing inspiration from the tradition of the world’s great museums with large, welcoming circular halls that inspire curiosity to explore the collections beyond.

Visitor experience

A new welcome experience

Central Hall will be at the heart of the redesigned National Railway Museum, acting as the gateway to our transformed galleries and spaces, and unifying the site like never before. Our vision for Central Hall as well as our reimagined outdoor spaces, is to become a focal point for emerging and existing communities to connect, interact and collaborate

The designs will embody the Science Museum Group’s commitment to being ‘open for all’ and to creating spaces where everyone can feel they belong. We are working with access consultants CCD and a group of people with lived experience of disability to ensure spaces are designed inclusively.

Central Hall is not just about a better arrival and visitor experience for the museum. It has a fundamental role as the cultural heart of the York Central development. The Railway Futures gallery will also let visitors explore new technologies and ideas that are shaping the railways of today, as well as providing enhanced educational opportunities to inspire the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs and engineers, on the railways and beyond.


York’s built heritage is incredibly rich and complex, and has always been a distinctive part of the city’s character, both as a place to live and a place to visit. The designs for Central Hall respond to this context and also to the heritage of the historical railway buildings amongst which it will be built.

We are working with Montagu Evans, a consultancy specialising in historic built environment, to help ensure developing designs remain sensitive to the unique historical character of this site and to the neighbourhood, so that old and new can come together in a way that feels natural.

Designs for Central Hall take inspiration from traditional railway architecture – its forms, its lines and its materials. This is especially the case with the new timber roof scapes being proposed.

Central Hall

Railway Futures and sustainability

Railway Futures gallery

Railways began to transform the world 200 years ago, but they are as relevant today as they ever have been.

Our vision for a new Railway Futures gallery within Central Hall is to showcase to our visitors the science behind the technology and explain the key issues that need to be addressed for rail to ensure its essential role in shaping all our futures.

The proposed setting will echo the heritage of the former goods station, Station Hall, using the same grid to create a harmonious connection between the buildings and celebrating the large brick arched openings. 

Through a mix of fixed and changing displays, an immersive media-led experience and on-gallery programming, it will showcase the most exciting engineering projects in development and highlight the role that innovation has always played in engineering the railways.

Railway Futures will not only highlight the technologies and the people engaged in shaping our future; it will also explore topical issues of globalisation, sustainability and ecology, technology, design, urban development and freedom of movement. This gallery won’t shy away from difficult questions – instead, it will use these questions to encourage visitors to think big for themselves.

Bright, diverse and dynamic, Railway Futures will reveal the ways in which the UK and the world are positively engaged in shaping a better transport future for all.


The National Railway Museum has an aspirational sustainability agenda and we intend this project to be a pioneering example of sustainability helping us move towards net zero carbon by 2033. The design for Central Hall is based on Feilden Fowles’ low-tech philosophy; a holistic approach to conceiving buildings that are light-touch with minimal environmental impact. This draws from passive environmental design principles, often learning from local traditions in construction and vernacular architecture to create buildings that survive for centuries.

Natural materials, passive design and minimal mechanical intervention are guiding principles on this project; using a low carbon timber structure, low carbon technologies for heating and natural ventilation for cooling (spaces will be cooled predominantly by opening high level rooflights) and natural daylight during the day to illuminate the interiors. In this way, Central Hall will also act as education tool, showing how we can reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the impact of climate change in building design.

This project helps the museum on its journey moving away from fossil fuels; an efficient low carbon electric air source heat pump will be used to heat the building. A thermal performance study has been undertaken to understand how the internal environment will feel for the visitors and staff in summer and winter.

Central Hall is on track to achieve BREEAM Excellent as per planning requirements and is considering Net Zero Carbon Construction and Operational status as per the UK Green Building Council verification process.

Railway futures images


Central Hall is just one part of a significant regeneration of our neighbourhood, and transport and access will be a vital factor in its success. We know how important transport links and safe travel are to our community. This board goes into some detail on how the museum and the partners involved in York Central are approaching the challenge. 

As part of the wider York Central outline planning approval and conditions, there is an agreed transport strategy which promotes sustainable travel modes above the car. This includes both staff and visitors to the National Railway Museum and a Travel Plan will be implemented to support the strategy to promote alternatives to the car. The  approved plans for the new highways through the York Central site include a new Road-Train pick up/drop off area, two coach spaces, improved walking routes and on-street cycle stands and temporary car parks. In the future as part of the new Railway Station entrance a cycle hub is proposed, as well as a multi-storey car park to replace the temporary car parks.

Map of York with routes marked with coloured lines

New highways

Three new highways, as well as pedestrian and cycle routes through South Yard, will all be open before part of Leeman Road is closed. A new length of highway (red dotted line running between the points A-B-C-D-G-H-J), including footways and cycleway will be provided close to the end of Leeman Road Tunnel/Marble Arch. The new road will broadly follow the line of Cinder Lane, before turning north-west and then turn right at a new junction and connect into Leeman Road, close to where it passes under Leeman Road Underpass, or continue on to Water End crossing over the railway.

A second new highway (E-F) will also be provided to the east of St Peter’s Quarter. This will be known as Foundry Way, This terminates with a turning head, from which a new footpath and cycleway continues south to join another new road. The vehicular length of this road is shown in red and the footway/cycle route in green.

A third new highway (C-E-G), to be called Hudson Boulevard, will be provided, designed as a quiet street, with segregated cycleway and footpath, and occasional service vehicles.

Improved highways

There are two areas of improvement works. The first area of improvement works is between points A and B where the existing road priorities will change and connect the new road into Leeman Road as it enters and leaves the Leeman Road Tunnel. The second improvement is the creation of a new junction at point J. The priority of this junction will mean that traffic to/from Garfield Terrace/Kingsland Terrace (K-J) will give-way to the traffic travelling on the new road towards St Peter’s Quarter (F-J-H).

Access through the museum

Once Central Hall is complete, a public pedestrian route through the building will come into effect. The new pedestrian route will open to the public under a Walkways Agreement (Section 35 of the Highways Act 1980) the details of this route will be agreed with the City of York Council (the “Council”) as Local Planning Authority (“LPA”), through discharging Condition 45 of the Outline Planning Permission. The Walkway route will be available at all times when the museum is open to the public. It runs broadly parallel to the length of Leeman Road to be Stopped Up and connects points B and F.

Black and white map
Pedestrian route highlighted in pink and entrance to the museum
Architects impression of paved space with people crossing
Pedestrian route and entrance to the museum

Have your say

  • Public consultations October–November 2021
  • Planning submission late 2021/early 2022
  • Expected planning decision Spring 2022
  • Enabling works late 2022
  • Construction to begin in 2023
  • Opening Autumn 2025

Please note the window for providing feedback has now closed.

Next steps

Construction of the new Central Hall is scheduled to commence in 2023, and the building will be opened in 2025.