What makes InnoTrans such a special event for the rail industry?

Published on: 20th December 2016

The railway industry does not have the perceived glamour and public wow factor of the automotive sector but the InnoTrans exhibition held bi-annually in Berlin does a great job of bridging that gap by showcasing exciting new rail innovations and engaging with the general public. Where else can you sit in the driver’s seat of the latest high speed train and imagine travelling at 250 km/h across continents or walk around the luxurious interior of a tram destined for the Middle East?

DCA’s transport design team attended the show in November 2016 and came away impressed yet again with the level of organisation that delivers an exhibition displaying real rolling stock to a mass audience and the degree of openness from manufacturers and operators who, for those 3 days, share their news with the world.

The Stadler EC250 trainset for SBB in Switzerland was an excellent example of a well-executed design plan.  From concept through to the final production train there was a level of consistency and detail that illustrated how the design vision had been maintained throughout.

Virtual reality, VR was present on both the CRRC and Bombardier stands.  We are sure that the next year or so will see the wholesale adoption of VR as a design and presentation tool as the potential of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive systems is fully realised.  VR has reached a level of maturity that makes a compelling case for reviewing design concepts in VR, allowing more informed decisions to be taken with a higher level of confidence at the earliest concept design phase of a project.

As part of Tomorrow’s Train Design Today Competition, sponsored by the RSSB, there were two stand out presentations made – a double deck train for the UK gauge railway by Andreas Vogler and ‘flexible seating designs’ by Priestman Goode and prototyped by Transcal.

The full size mock-up of the double deck train was impressive with its signature glazing solutions. However, it highlighted the physical and practical constraints that plague such efforts to shoehorn double deck trains onto the UK’s Victorian gauge and existing infrastructure.  The lack of interior space, particularly headroom, is a real problem and has yet to be solved in a vehicle format that offers the necessary capacity increases over single deck alternatives in combination with acceptable station dwell times.

The two flexible seat concepts on the Transcal Stand showed a creative approach to innovation with nicely built prototypes that showed off the potential for introducing flexibility in passenger interiors.  As with all such innovations, their success will depend upon passenger acceptance of a different travelling experience and operators’ willingness to adopt different ways of working.

With six exhibition halls and an extensive outdoor display, InnoTrans really is the place to go to explore the world of railways and this makes it rather special.  It continues to be the most comprehensive and exciting railway related exhibition and trade show in Europe.  We are already looking forward to November 2018!