PASSENGERS using Kowloon railway station in 1997 should feel they have arrived at an international airport rather than a less glamorous railway terminus. At least that is the hope of the design team spearheading plans for the $1 billion station redevelopment. Foster Hong Kong which is designing the territory's new airport terminal at Chek Lap Kok is leading the architectural team on the new railway terminus. The firm is the local subsidiary of the renowned British architect and has drawn heavily on the experience its parent firm gained designing the passenger terminal at London's Stansted airport. Under the proposal Kowloon station is to double in size over the next two years using what is now the bus waiting area as the site for the extension. Foundations construction for a new elevated bus lay-by has just started. Facilities within the existing station will be progressively demolished and rebuilt, although this is unlikely to affect passengers until next year. The station platforms will also be improved with new lighting, signs and partial air-conditioning. Preliminary plans prepared by Foster show Kowloon station will have a light and airy feel to it, relying heavily on glass and steel to accentuate the feeling of space. There will be an open mezzanine area with shops and restaurants. Detailed design work, which is just starting, will confirm many of the ideas already put forward by Foster. A key element of the new station is to make it more user friendly, providing easier passenger access to the trains and separating China-bound passengers from those travelling within Hong Kong. Airports and stations have essentially the same problem - how to handle a lot of people in a small amount of space, said Ian Woods, the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) consultant in charge of the project. On an average day Kowloon station is already handling four times as many passengers as the 40,000 it was originally designed for. At weekends and special holidays this figure can easily top 200,000. This leads to massive congestion as people queuing for trains to China thread their way through the station concourse and mix with local passengers. Foster's response to this muddle has been to use its airport experience to create three distinct zones within the enlarged station for what it calls domestic passengers and Chinese arrivals and departures. Each zone will have its own ticketing areas and for Chinese travellers there will be separate immigration, customs and lounges for arrivals and departures. Foster's approach gained special credit from KCRC which was already concerned about the extra passengers the Guangzhou through-train would generate when double-decked carriages carrying more than 1,400 passengers are introduced.