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Very modern railways

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You are a passenger at London Euston in 2035 about to make the hour-long journey to Manchester. An alert on your 20th generation iWatch shows the 15.10 HS2 service is just pulling into the station. It displays exactly where to stand on the platform for boarding.

Once onboard, a light on the seat headrest turns from green to red as the train detects the e-ticket on your smart phone. Pulling out of the station, you open up a holographic display to check your estimated arrival time before sitting back to watch a movie.

Charging pads on the table allow you to power up your phone as you traverse the British countryside and if you’re feeling hungry, you can order refreshments straight to your seat using the touch computer screen built into the table in front of you.

This is the future of rail travel in Britain says Hitachi’s now former managing director, Keith Jordan. In fact, all of these features appear in a new very high-speed concept train developed by Hitachi. Described by the manufacturer as its British Bullet Train, it has been designed to demonstrate that high- speed rail won’t be just about going faster. The train’s Garter Blue colour scheme borrows from the iconic LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard.

‘All that you see will be deliverable in the future,’ says Keith. ‘The technology exists, the delivery sometimes takes time and educating customers sometimes takes time.

‘It’s just showcasing that we do know what real high speed is about.’

50 years of experience in Japan

Who really knows what the rate of technological development will be like between now and 2030? We now use mobile phones to pay for shopping, listen to music and to watch TV. In the year 2000 mobile phones couldn’t even connect to the internet –  there wasn’t even WAP, for all the good it did. Keith said the AT400 looks beyond HS2, but that is clearly at the forefront of Hitachi’s ambitions.

002_HS2_white_final_07052014 [online]

‘We feel we have to be in a very good position because of the technology we’ve got. [We have] 50 years of experience in Japan, more than anybody else in the world with high-speed trains.’

Siemens also has something new and is targeting the long-distance EMU market with its Desiro Verve – a replacement for the discontinued Desiro UK. The Verve cars will be 23 metres long – three metres longer than the Thameslink Desiro City – and will be equipped with uprated bogies to give them a top speed of 125 mph.

The Verve features a more aerodynamic front end than the Class 700 and an interior configured for intercity travel. Graeme Clark, head of business development, rolling stock, said, ‘We’ve gone for a lot of features that have been developed specifically for the Desiro City, so it draws very heavily on the technology of the Desiro City.’

New Tube for London programme

Next generation rolling stock is also part of London Underground’s long-term plans. Siemens and Hitachi have been shortlisted alongside Bombardier, Alstom and CAF for the £2.5 billion New Tube for London programme – for which the Invitation to Tender (ITT) is now expected by the end of the year. A full-scale model of Siemens’ Inspiro concept Tube train went on display at The Crystal on Royal Victoria Dock for much of 2013 as a vision for what could be.

Modern trains are needed to meet the expectations of modern passengers, but innovation in rolling stock design and engineering isn’t being left to manufacturers to deliver alone. Several design agencies have only recently been given a share of £2.2 million as part of the ‘Tomorrow’s Train Design Today Competition’ run by Future Railway, the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

The Rail Supply Group, in producing its long-term rolling stock strategy, has highlighted the accelerated demand for new trains, created by a well-noted historical lack of investment and an extensive plan to electrify large portions of the network over the next few years. Surely it won’t be long until these concept trains of the future are brought to life and operating on the network.


  1. And in the meantime there will be computer controlled cars able to travel at greater speeds than cars today, with less pollution than the train & also to be able to video conference those in Manchester. Oh why am I going to Manchester which takes an hour. I’ll turn back, help save the planet & continue with the video conference in 3D.


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