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?