/ Technology, Travel & Leisure

Is modern train design already out of date?

Train in sun

We’ve all experienced a terrible train journey with no seats and rammed aisles. Is this just due to more commuters, or is it because the UK’s train design is stuck in the 1970s?

Imagine the scene in 10 years’ time – to get a seat on a train you need to get up before 6am and join a massive queue to get to work.

This isn’t a doomsday scenario – it’s a fact. Mass transit authorities’ thinking is stuck in the 1970s when many of their trains were built. And if they don’t catch up soon, we’ll all be left behind. It’s 2015 – do people really need restaurant cars or armrests to have a pleasant journey to work?

Train design is 40 years’ behind

People are habitual; commuting should be easy and not a chore. Getting on the train and finding a seat should be smooth. Why is it that some regular commuters selfishly keep laptops or bags on seats, holding everyone up as they slowly struggle to move everything away?

Changing the way seats are configured and looking at entrances could change this. Rather than packing as many seats into a carriage, why not look at comfortable standing alternatives for busy routes? After all, trains built in the 1970s and 80s weren’t designed for people on electronic devices, carrying rucksacks or reading e-books.

Some companies, such as First Great Western, have purchased new Hitachi trains like those used in Japan. But they’re even smaller than their InterCity 125 trains which already pack in people like sardines. The new trains also have smaller seats, narrower corridors and shorter carriages.

Surely, as more and more people use the train they should consider longer carriages, no first class on short routes, and seating that’s fit for working with laptops or tablets? Is it too much to ask for designers to use the route and see for themselves that the new trains on order are already our of date?

Why can’t we move with the times?

Could the train industry learn from the new iconic London Routemaster? It’s already a design classic, with bigger seats and upholstery that’ll stand the test of time. In short, it’s a bus that’s fit for the next 20 years.

In Europe and the US, the trains are roomy, air conditioned and have proper comfortable seats that allow you to work. Hundreds of billions have been invested into Britain’s rail industry in the past 30 years – UK designers should be talking to (and learning from) those in Germany who build and run trains to the highest standards.

As population grows in the UK so should the standards of our public transport systems. As one of the world’s leading innovation centres shouldn’t we be able to build our trains on home soil, within budget and to the highest standards of design so that they stand the test of time?

Comments
Member

Peak demand is the problem, on both rail and road. It is time we started to seriously look at staggering working hours. The simple way to make better use of existing rail and road capacity. Oh, and we could also relocate workplaces away from the heavily congested areas to reduce the commuting distance necessary.
We need to think about more innovative ideas than simply adding more roads, more and bigger trains and infrastructure, used for a limited part of the day only. it’s an expensive and inefficient use of resources and staff, isn’t it?

Member

The money might be better spent on cutting down our dependence on travel, both public and private transport, especially for travel to work. Is it that difficult to vary working hours to spread the load? Employees might well be amenable to the opportunity to change their hours and avoid travel problems.

I question whether making commuting easier should be the target. I believe that we need more people living near where they work, so they can walk or cycle, and do so in safety.

In his introduction, Ian suggests the possibility of ‘comfortable standing alternatives’. I don’t mind if Ian wants to stand, but packing people in will encourage the spread of viral diseases. Even if we don’t consider the wellbeing of travellers, time off work through illness has financial implications for employers.

Member
Gerry says:
3 November 2015

The Hitachi trains do have longer carriages, do you mean longer trains overall?

I’m not sure it’s the trains that are the problem, as your featured comment says, it’s peak demand. It’s also people. Social idiosyncrasies and a traditional service pattern means there’s not too much more that can be done to tackle this however.

Improving trains is an ongoing process, they can be specced any way you choose. Take thameslink. New trains coming soon but they will be focused more on standing passengers. This is fine from say St Albans to Croydon, but for anyone further out, the trains are terribly uncomfortable. Considering these trains are designed specifically for the route, it’s a shame they haven’t provided a variety of standard class configurations to give some table backs and arm rests to people travelling from Bedford or Brighton.

I drive to work now and it’s just as bad, despite having a job I can easily do from home. Office working is fine but management culture is set in stone for people in all but the creative industries where you have to be seen.

Member

We travelled from North Wales to Switzerland by train, recently, and it was a revelation. The best trains were Eurostar and Swiss; DBahn was a let down, although Thales was pretty good. The Swiss mainline trains are double decker, with first class boarding on the level, meaning easy roll-on for cases. But I’m afraid I disagree strongly with Neil when he says “in Europe and the US trains are roomy, air conditioned and have proper comfortable seats that allow you to work”. We didn’t travel on any train with larger or more comfortable seats than Virgin’s West coast service or Eurostar, and some were decidedly less pleasant. We don’t commute, of course, so we know nothing about that side of things.

Member

I’m not sure what the term “design classic” means with reference to the dire bus which Boris Johnson has inflicted on London. Its seats may be larger than on proper buses but they don’t offer more space for passengers – they simply mean that your knees are squashed in (and the stupidly low ceiling means that you bang your head every time you stand up even when you’re average height).
When you look at the lower deck, the impression you get is that someone has been to some kind of second hand furniture shop and picked up a bunch of not quite matching chairs and chucked them in in the forlorn hope that they might just fit.
The tiny windows make journeys even on a sunny day a gloomy experience and the fact that they don’t open makes the bus unbearably hot and stuffy at pretty much any time of the year.
I’m sure that the LED lights are energy efficient but they also make the bus gloomy and unwelcoming on darker days. The energy saving created by not adding a few more LEDs is completely wiped out by the fact that the supposed hybrid nature of the bus never works – I travel regularly on the Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 hybrids and the Thomas Heatherwick London bus and the very obvious difference is that the Enviro 400 is silent at bus stops; the diesel cuts out and the electric motor is used as the bus pulls away from the stop. By contrast the broken Heatherwick Bus makes an intolerable level of noise whenever it stops.
I don’t know what the Hitachi trains are like on GWR but they would have to be really bad to be worse than the bad joke Boris has played (at massive cost) on the people of London.

Member

On the Continent it is not unusual to see double decker trains, although highly impractical in this country, it is one solution to accommodate the flow of human commuters during rush hour.

Overcrowding during rush hour is a global problem and has led to the reintroduction of ‘Ladies Only’ carriages in many countries, owing to the rise in female harassment by male passengers in tightly packed carriages. The problem is particularly grim in Japan, an example of how bad it can get can be witnessed @ youtube.com -Japanese Commuter Train In The Morning. In August this year, Jeremy Corbyn said he would consult on the option of introducing women only carriages to help reduce harassment. The last ladies only trains in the UK were withdrawn in 1977 due to equality legislation which prevented gender specific provisions.

Apart from introducing more carriages which would mean constructing longer platforms at most stations, and more people being encouraged to work from home on certain days of the week, alternating with fellow workers, which may ease some of the flow, and City dwellers cycling shorter distances as they do in Holland, the immediate outcome looks pretty dire, but with the population predicted to increase in the next 10 years a solution needs to be found. It seems ludicrous that between 10am and 3pm when I use my local train, carriages are only half full and I feel sorry for the people who have no other option than to suffer the congestion during rush hour periods and are charged extortionate fares for ‘the privilege’.

Member

Only half full? that seems positively crowded for off peak trains on many London routes. I gather that in the morning peak some trains can be filled to 200% of the seated capacity and the network is very inefficient and inflexible in responding to the daily issues when ‘bean counter’ mentality presumes that you can operate a system flawlessly demanding over 90% of capacity/utilisable resources.

Ironically the old slam door trains had more seats, and could be filled and emptied faster simply because of the way they were built. Only 12 people needed to get out or in through each door – lined up with a compartment with 6 seats per side (at a squeeze).

What did revolutionise things was Thameslink, closing 6 platforms at Holborn Viaduct (and now generating revenue from commercial use of the land) closing 4 at St Pancras, with now 2 closed at Moorgate plus more intensive use of 4 vice 5 platforms at Blackfriars. Trains with would sit occupying space for typically 10 minutes before going out in the direction from which they came in – less filled then ran through the core and could do this with a far higher frequency. Fewer trains, better used, on fewer tracks.

Crossrail is about to do this between 2 other overloaded London commuter termini

We need to look at some other connections – I’d suggest a Bermondsey to Battersea route to reprise the District Railway but on the South Bank , and in the same vein incorporate a core route for utilities alongside the rail route – Stations at Battersea Power Station/Nine Elms, Vauxhall (for those who no longer get a service to Victoria), Waterloo, Blackfriars, London Bridge (all reducing churn at Clapham Junction and other stations where previously commuters changed trains) and out through the lands at New Cross, in many cases able to take services which used to have alternate trips between London Bridge and Victoria, as a simple loop.

Euston to Waterloo is another – barely 2 Km between the stations, and ideally doing a Musee d’Orsay conversion on Charing Cross. The local Watford Junction services could be removed from Euston terminus and a new station below connect at last Euston Square with Euston, those local trains would then replace the inner local services from Waterloo to perhaps East Putney, or even Wimbledon via East Putney, with other options to take the stopping local trains from Milton Keynes to places South of the Thames, or simply loop back to Watford via Clapham. A short route intensively used , and with an interchange in reserve for Farringdon on the Crossrail spine

Member

You have some good ideas Dave. It seems Crossrail 2 is the only big scheme in the capital likely to get approval in the next few years. You should read the London Reconnections website.

Member

New iconic ‘New Routemaster@ jaw drop! It is as far away from the original Routemaster as you might manage if you actually set out to make make the antitheses of the original’s well conceived design, which has – over 60 years, seen the bus length extended – twice, the prime mover upgraded – at least twice, and the transmission also changed. All this on a vehicle which drastically reduced the tare weight through being the first truly monocoque mass produced bus used in London. The original Routemaster (4 bays) weight in at under 8 tons, and the New Routemaster…. the Stretch XRM (5 bay) vehicles I suspect can be plated to carry more passengers too for a lower GVW.

The Routemaster also included a key ‘London’ requirement in its design – just as the London Taxi spec goes for a vehicle which is highly manouevrable, so the RM can dance through congested streets and tight spaces. The design of London bus stations currently is dictated by the wide swept space that a New Routemaster requires to swing in and out, even compared to other buses in use.

TfL London Rail actually demonstrated a commonsense approach with the fleet of trains ordered for LOROL services, by having lockable, opening windows included in the spec, despite the trains being air conditioned. One of the key things that makes or breaks a heat transfer system is the ability of the condenser (the place that heat removed from the place which needs cooling is sent to be dumped) has to be operating where the surrounding air is cool enough to take away the heat coming in.

With an overheated condenser the system then begins to work in reverse, taking heat in at the condenser and dumping it out at the place you are trying to cool down. I’ve yet to see any definitive answers to that roastmaster problem but options might include the external air temperature created by the heat island effect of the hard landscaping and paved areas in Central London and the lack of vegetation, or even simply water and a breeze to cool things down thus the fans draw in hot air in a vain attempt to cool down the condenser on the bus. Another option is that the particle laden air builds up a blockage on the air filters on the condenser cooling intake, and dramatically reduces the efficiency of the system. Pulling a bus out of service and than testing in in the shaded and usually cooler location of the bus workshops won’t replicate the on-street conditions. The pragmatic approach is of course, to have opening windows, and also to recognise that most of the passengers will be dressed to walk to & from the bus in the prevailing weather conditions, and all they really need is a light touch of heat or cooling to keep them comfortable in the clothing they are wearing for the conditions outside….

Member
.Railwaywriter says:
4 November 2015

Your correspondent has had a bad journey to work and takes it out on the keyboard.
Longer carriages or trains are impossible here in the north with our single-class suburban trains limited by the track and platforms cut back in the 1980s to save money. Double deck trains are impossible due to Victorian infrastructure restricting height and width enjoyed by our European cousins.
We don’t have restaurant cars either, just a trolley for longer distance services. The interiors of new trains are smaller because of the tilt angle for higher speed running.
Just be grateful you have a modern train to get to work. Ours are over 30 years old

Member

In terms of design itself, it really is a shame that double-deckers I’ve enjoyed in other countries are out of the question due to infrastructure, but something that could ease the strain and would be very easy to do would be the abolition of first class during peak hours.

It’s depressing to see people uncomfortably rammed into carriages (often short-formed services) every day, even though there are seats and extra space available. I’ve witnessed train staff attempt to fine people forced into first class who quite simply have nowhere else to go. Common sense has to prevail at some stage.

Member

I agree, newly designed trains could compartmentalise first class carriages, which would involve simply surveying the number of first class passengers using them on a regular basis during rush hour times which would free up more seats for 2nd class commuters and keep the 1st class passengers separated, all within the same carriage. I’m sure train companies already have the statistics available so it wouldn’t be too difficult to implement at design stage.

Member

Why do we need two separate classes?

Member

Hear Hear! First class for all I say. I only travel off-peak and usually go First class on long journeys because with advance booking it is not much more expensive than Standard class.

There is not much wrong with forty-year old trains if they have been brought up to modern standards. I was in a refurbished 35-year old coach last week and it was as good as new with power points, accessible toilets, air conditioning and good lighting. The only unmodernised features were the doors where you had to lower the window, lean out, grab a handle, lower it away from you, and swing the door outwards. Many people can’t manage that unaided. Unfortunately the bogie beneath my seat had a wheel-flat so the ride wasn’t as smooth as it should have been but the return journey was excellent despite the age of the train.

Member

” with no seats and rammed aisles.” Great spell-checking but I think “crammed ” works better.

However to the more meaty part this ” Imagine the scene in 10 years’ time – to get a seat on a train you need to get up before 6am and join a massive queue to get to work. This isn’t a doomsday scenario – it’s a fact.”

I always like facts to be substantiated. Are we talking about London? The West Country weekly commuter about his Monday?

The contributors here are providing some good stuff but it is generally also light on details. I can provide some which might indicate how things might be improved other than by staff remote working OR businesses and charities removing their HQ’s from central London.

Seems to be that trams can be effective:
“The tram network, which covers nearly 20 miles of track and runs right the way across outer south London from Beckenham through to Wimbledon, has gone from carrying 18.5 million passengers in its first year of operation in 2000 to more than 32 million in 2014-2015, and demand is forecast to increase to around 60 million by 2030.
In a statement issued to the press, TfL said: “The improvements will also have a positive impact on other transport services in the area, helping to relieve congestion on buses and encouraging car owners to leave their vehicles at home – reducing traffic and carbon emissions.”

In London high priority cycling roads criss-crossing the capital, and an onus on employers to provide changing and storage facilities for cyclists would make a huge difference at relatively small cost. Why not explore the healthy options. ?

I live 13 miles from the City and train is very convenient but I would much prefer a cycle only road system that would get me there in under 45minutes pretty much whatever the weather and at nil cost.

If Which? is campaigning rather than just generating column inches perhaps it could be clearer on what it wants.

Member

I was disappointed that a previous government cancelled several new tramway schemes in UK cities and delayed extension projects in various other cities. The Croydon tramway has been a great success and is having to be enlarged at several points to increase capacity because, like the Docklands Light Railway, it was engineered on the mean side when first built.

Some continental equivalents of our local and regional railways leave a lot to be desired in comparison, with hard bench seats with torn vinyl upholstery , draughty windows, metal panelling, noisy and jerky connexions between cars, stinky toilets, and running on uneven jointed track. They seem to keep to their leisurely timetables though.

Member
Griff says:
4 November 2015

I’m inclined to agree up to a point with dieseltaylor.

The title for this article is “Is modern train design already out of date” and you haven’t given any reason as to why you think that. It does seem to be a rant without any discernible facts to back up your claims.

What I don’t agree with is the idea to turn everything into a cycleway. We all live in Britain, it is hilly and wet, it is not somewhere that will encourage cycling. There is lots of cycling in Cambridge, because it’s flat. There is lots of cycling in Holland, because it’s flat. There is also lots of cycling in Duesseldorf, because it’s flat.

I lived in Holland for a bit and cycling is the best way round. Mostly due to the fact that distances are very small, the land is flat and there is huge provision for the cyclist.

However, you cannot apply that logic to all cities. Perhaps Manchester, but take Leeds, Newcastle, Bristol, Nottingham, Sheffield, no chance.

Consider also that councils put cycle “lanes” in just to satisfy the EU, so you end up with these:

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=world%27s+shortest+cycle+lane&espv=2&biw=1112&bih=768&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0CCoQsARqFQoTCKfOs7n89sgCFQHZFAodpRQKtw

Quite simply we need to invest in infrastructure BEFORE we build new areas.

Member
John says:
5 November 2015

I used to work in London with a five day week stretching from 8.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. – 37.5 hours per week after taking off the one hour lunch break. My travel time was close to one hour each way.

I always felt that a four day week of about 9 hours worktime with flexitime would have been much better. The nine hours would fit in between 8.00 a.m. and 6.00 p.m. and could help with the individual journey times. My idea was to have a rotating day off so that every five weeks I would have had a long weekend when the Friday and Monday would coincide – marvellous for short holiday breaks – and routine medical things like dentist appointments could be fitted in on days off.

But the ‘hidden’ benefit would be that traffic overall would be reduced by about 20% as each worker would only be out and struggling to get to work on four days out of the ‘normal’ five. This in itself would reduce the stress of travelling and speed up journey times, in my case by at least 15 minutes each way!

Member
Phil says:
5 November 2015

One glaring error in the item and a major reason why trains are so overcrowded. GWR isn’t about to purchase any trains, train operating companies don’t own their rolling stock they lease it from companies like Angel Trains. This is all part and parcel of the botched privatisation and leads to overcrowding because the operating companies want to keep their costs down so lease as few coaches as they can get away with.

Rather than 1970’s engineering it’s 1990’s politics that are responsible for your overcrowded train.

Member

When talking about train capacity, I often see the constraint that we can’t have double decker trains running into London because the Victorian era infrastructure won’t permit it. And if nothing is done, it is true – tunnels, some bridges, some rail flyovers do restrict the available height. But if we are willing to spend billions on other projects, why not consider changing those restrictions? It can be done one line at a time, and virtually all the expense would need to be spent in the UK. Perhaps we could actually contemplate designing train units that could be built in the UK to serve them, too.

Member

In order to do this you would have to destroy a considerable amount of of our heritage. I would rather see the money spent on the NHS, education and coping with the increasing number of elderly in the population.

Member

Double deck trains would not give double the capacity and they are slow to board and alight from extending station dwell times. Raising bridges is not easy if there are buildings close by and road levels have to change, and it would be short-sighted not to raise them sufficiently to incorporate overhead electrification. Reboring tunnels or lowering the track is extremely disruptive work that requires complete line closures. The cost and inconvenience are not justified. Longer trains is the current policy with twelve car trains being introduced on many commuter routes. Another way is to install new signalling which will allow a higher frequency of trains on the line – this is also being done up to the maximum sustainable level.

Of course, the strategic solution is to relocate the origins and destinations of the traffic . . .

Member

John: in my experience, the double decker trains we’ve used allow passengers precisely the same time to board and disembark at stations. Trains fascinate me (sadly, I hear you say 🙂 but their design is interesting, as the lower deck sits in the void between the bogeys, so is shorter (obviously) than the upper deck. The ‘double decker’ portion is therefore only half as long as the carriage.

I imagine you’re spot on regarding the height overall, however; and in the mainline cases it wouldn’t just be bridges that might have to be raised but the entire overhead power supply gantry system. Bit more than a weekend’s work, anyway.

Member

Double deck trains on the continent can take advantage of the more generous loading gauge and fit two decks in as you say within the height available and they have more width to play with in terms of layout. The UK headroom is heavily compromised. When double-deck trains were tried for a period in England they had to squeeze the seats into a restricted headroom and after allowing for the short staircases at each end the overall extra capacity was not worth while. The lower deck passengers had to go down a few steps to get in and those in the upper saloon had to go up a few steps because, obviously, the doors had to remain at platform height. Another uncomfortable and inconvenient aspect of the design was that the foot-wells of the upper deck intruded into the volume of the lower deck. so the seat spacing could not be as efficient as it is in a single-deck train. There were only two doors on each side of each carriage and at interchange stations the time taken to get everyone off and on was too long so they were not suitable for commuter routes.

Member

John /All,

The Bulleid class 4DD 3rd rail electric “double decker” trains were “slam door” trains, so they had multiple doors per side. However, each door served both a lower and an upper compartment, so they would have taken longer to load and unload a full carriage than a normal “slam door” train.

When I was very young, I had grandparents in London and saw these trains in action (and rode on them?) then.

Member

Thank you Derek for that information. I never saw those trains – even more internal steps than I imagined and presumably the lower compartment was at normal platform height, or possibly just a little lower but not as low as the lower decks on continental double-deckers.

As a youngster I remember seeing commuters dashing from one train to another at Finsbury Park in north London. Three trains would come in headed for Kings Cross, Moorgate, and Broad Street. Some people would get off the Broad Street train, cross the platform, go through a compartment on the Moorgate train [which was on a line with platforms on both sides of the train], cross the next platform and get on the Kings’s Cross train. I was reminded of this when I visited the North Norfolk Railway in the summer and saw some of the old compartment stock in use; with a slam-door to each compartment -which seated six a side and also took four+ standing – in terms of packing-them-in this was probably the most intensive railway service ever in this country.

Member

Ian – You’re right about raising the overhead power supply, but it doesn’t stop there. The current collectors on the locomotives and carriages might also have to be replaced to extend their reach and make good contact with the conductor wire.

Member

Yes – the double decker info is fascinating, Derek.

Member
Ian Brooker says:
5 November 2015

This is the most ignorant article I have ever read! Do you actually use trains? Or the lardbus? Modern trains have more space for standing. Average age in UK is less than 20 years. You say its over 40! The NB4L has smaller seats not bigger.

Which has ALWAYS been anti rail. why?

Member

I’m told this is more of a “rant” than a considered and well researched article.

Member

My biggest complaint is seat design, headrests in particular when will designers realise that some of the populous have a longer torso than average and fitting wrap round headrests are very uncomfortable for us. Also for leisure travellers they like to look out of the window not stare at the wall, its time we introduced standards for seats regarding the size of seat swabs, height off the floor, height and angle of the seat back so designers are not just concentrating on its looks like they are at the moment.

Member

If only we were stuck in 1970’s train design. The Mk3 coaches from then are still the most quiet, comfortable and practical (eg usable luggage racks) even with the extra seats that have been crammed in. If you want modern design suitable for commuters, look at the new London Overground trains. Don’t pine for double deck – it just slows down the train with extended boarding and alighting times.

Member
geri says:
5 January 2016

The Trains need to be wider they could fit more passengers. The old GWR was 7ft gauge. Bristol to Paddington could be be rebuilt with wider trains. Most of the clearance is still there. Not 7ft but the current 4.8 track has always been more generous in the centre between as a result of the old gauge.

Member

I certainly do not regard the current train seating arrangement that is hardly different to that found in aircraft, and sadly even road coaches to be satisfactory. I have to admit that I felt the old stock where there were 6 or 8 seats in a single compartment with its own internal door accessing the corridor was more comfortable, quieter, and, with storage space above the seats discouraged passengers from placing their luggage on an adjacent seat. Tell me I am old fashioned, but I did prefer my older, more comfortable train journeys in these trains .

Member
Andrew says:
1 October 2016

The biggest trouble with train design today on suburban services is the lack of doors which leads to long dwell time. On my very busy south east London line the badly designed coaches only have two doors per carriage whereas a minimum of 3 is required. The timetables are badly planned and the trains are not evenly spaced but bunched together which leads to severe overcrowding which leads to delays, in particular when Southeastern thinks it OK to run 6 coach trains in the rush hour.

Standing on these trains is very uncomfortable because there is nothing to easily hold on to or lean against.

Our trains are much slower than in the 1950s mainly due to poorly designed, overcrowded trains with long dwell times in stations.

Member

So it’s the number of passengers that’s the problem really, Andrew, rather than the lack of doors or the number of carriages [are all the platforms long enough for longer trains?].

I think the timetabled bunching of trains on a dense network like south-east London is due to the stopping patterns, the capacity of the junctions, and the number of different termini served. I suspect the network is now at full capacity and will not be able to carry additional commuters so incoming residents of the new housing developments are in for a shock. Those who rely on a train on the inner London stretch of track will come of worse and will never get a seat and will often be prevented form boarding. Crossrail from Abbey Wood to Paddington in December 2018 will probably provide considerable relief initially but will obviously attract more commuters overall.

Member
Gerald says:
21 October 2016

What we need is wider Trains, not more length , the whole system is still Victorian . Extra rows of seats. Aircraft are wide why not trains? Also have no terminals , trains should round and round.

Member

Well, a cheeky answer is that there are no bridges and tunnels in the skies to limit the width of aeroplanes.

Trains are both wider and higher on the continent because – largely for military purposes – the railways were built to larger dimensions than the British lines which pre-dated them.

That great Victorian engineer I K Brunel built the Great Western Railway to the Broad Gauge dimensions which was 50% [approx] wider than the Standard Gauge. The GWR was superior in many respects because the wider tracks made for a smoother ride, higher speeds, and greater comfort. Unfortunately, most British railways were built to the Standard Gauge which eventually prevailed and the GWR had to convert to that size. Brunel’s legacy is still visible in the wider bridges and tunnels on the original GWR lines from London Paddington to the West of England and Wales. Some of the trains on the present Great Western are slightly wider than those on other lines and cannot run on or be transferred to other routes.

Member

The idea of no terminals is actually rather nice. There’s too much rail infrastructure for that to happen with trains, but monorails could work rather nicely in that respect. Monorails are also elevated, so could run with a comparatively small footprint in cities requiring only 4′ x 4′ patch of ground every 50 yards for the concrete track supports. Monorails are ideal for cities, too, because large buildings could be subverted to stations, so travellers could embark and disembark without ever going outside.

Member

Gerald, that’s a nice “thinking outside the box” (or outside the loading gauge) idea.

For these wider trains, we’ll need to acquire a national network of lightly graded routes with nice gentle curves that connects most of our major conurbations. Perhaps, the compulsory purchase of the existing motorway network would provide a nice starting point for this 😉