Innotrans 2018 review
Published on: 16th October 2018
This year a major attraction from our perspective was the diminutive Glasgow metro train from Stadler. Seen in context with other more traditional train formats, the Glasgow metro is an excellent example of railway engineering and design. Stadler have managed to package a complete drive system with a fully accessible interior into a linear tube no higher than a standard doorway.
The interior design manages to make the most of the space available and avoids any sense of claustrophobia. Discreet LED lighting and a well-chosen colour scheme using the core white and orange brand colours makes a contemporary design statement. The open gangway sections maintain sightlines throughout the interior and contribute to the open, spacious feel despite its diminutive size.
Stadler also had the first of the East Anglia Flirt trains on display. With its novel central power car and articulated carriage layout, these trains also showcased Stadler’s innovative approach as well as their excellent build quality.
Other trains from Hitachi, Alstom, CRRC, Siemens, Skoda and all the other major suppliers provided clear indications of how the future of trains is evolving and showcased a number of exciting trends in the industry.
In the past, train design has sometimes become polarised between impractical visual styling exercises and pragmatic but uninspiring engineering solutions. So it was great to see so many examples of design and engineering working in tandem to deliver great passenger-focused solutions at this year’s show. In one example, Alstom were demonstrating on their stand their catenary-free tramway solutions based on an innovative ground-level power supply and static charging system. This alternative infra-structure should open up a wealth of design and installation opportunities.
More immediately, a well-engineered combination of cantilever seating and underfloor heating presents passengers with a clean and uncluttered interior space and ample space for their legs and hand luggage. Innovation like this has the potential to transform interior spaces as shown by the cantilever seat design and bike area used on the Alstom Coradia Stream for Trenitalia.
On the other hand, if innovations like cantilever seating are delivered purely as an engineering exercise without consideration of the design and human factor implications, opportunities to enhance the passenger experience can be lost. There were examples of this in a number of seats on show at Innotrans where the cantilever structure intruded into the window side passenger’s foot space. This, combined with carriage side heating, resulted in some horribly compromised foot well solutions.
Elsewhere in the exhibition halls, there were many suppliers, as usual, providing both novel and well-proven train interior and system components from seats to toilets, smart windows and intelligent lighting plus everything else one could need to reference or specify as a rail interior designer. One growth area for future trains is the use of vending systems for hot and cold drinks and snacks. Catering on-board trains is a complicated issue, typically involving a mixture of restaurant cars, café and bar facilities and trolley services. The result is usually compromised and is often a focal point for criticism by the travelling public as well as a being a constant challenge for operators to maintain. There is no doubt that vending solutions have an important role to play in the future of on-train catering and offer the potential to improve travel experiences for everyone.
It was also exciting to see future mobility solutions being explored in the form of the SkyWay Unicar and Siemens self-driving single-seater vehicles. The former proposes a completely new mass transit infrastructure based on overhead cables and rails. The latter integrates onboard intelligence with static sensing and communication stations to open up the possibilities for autonomous first/last mile solutions linking with existing mobility options. Both were presented as working prototypes and are currently undergoing extensive trials under controlled conditions.
In summary, Innotrans provides a unique opportunity to review the best in current rail technology as well as offering a fascinating insight into the options available to us to shape the future of personal mobility. It is a huge show where all the big established global manufacturers rub shoulders with their suppliers and a huge number of smaller organisations offering a comprehensive range of mobility related products and services. The weather was glorious and the sausages tasty – what’s not to like!
Written by Paul Rutter, Transport Sector Manager