London Underground works in conjunction with leading flooring manufacturers and suppliers and is currently conducting a trial of flooring materials at Victoria Station (Underground).
Above: London Victoria rail station, with one of the tube entrances on the left. (image by Ewan M on flickr- creative commons license)
In the passage linking Victoria and District & Circle Lines, there are eight areas of trial floorings, two granite, five terrazzo types and one fully vitrified porcelain. London Underground said:
We are very keen in maintaining high standards of finishes in public areas, taking into account durability, cleanability and safety. Over the course of the coming year, these aspects will be taken into consideration and, given that the various flooring types meet our criteria, then they can be considered suitable for installation, particularly when it comes to new station development as well as the refurbishment of existing assets.
An Underground station could be subject to some of the highest levels of pedestrian traffic anywhere in Britain, so it is certainly worth spending a year testing and determining the most durable materials for flooring. This time is unlikely to be available for the majority of smaller, one-off projects, but for designers or architects in a large multidisciplinary practice, testing flooring materials in situ alongside each other would provide valuable data for future work.
As London Underground point out, there is an important balance to be struck between aesthetics, cost and durability:
Public flooring needs to be aesthetically pleasing but also needs to be cost effective and provide a high performance in use. It is, therefore, demanding on materials and, hence, the need and usefulness of trials.
I would love to know which products and manufacturers are on trial, but this information is kept in commercial confidence by LU. However, the organisation said it would be interesed to receive comments from architects and other specifiers- so if anyone in London is walking between Victoria and District &; Circle lines, please take a look and report back.