RECORD passenger numbers on Britain’s railway network might be a boon for operators, but it is raising severe questions over capacity and the suitability of the existing network to cope with ever increasing demand.
Headlines like “Rush hour hell” and “Commuter misery” sum up public frustration, with more than four in 10 London commuters currently forced to stand during their journey to work. It is the same in Manchester, which has some of the country’s most overcrowded trains, with some services running at over 200% of their passenger capacity, while peak and weekend long-distance trains suffer from similar overloading. For those lucky enough to secure a standard-class seat reservation, during a walk to the buffet car it is not uncommon to encounter passengers standing or sitting in aisles, and luggage littered all over the coach because the racks are full.
The HS2 project to develop a new high-speed line between London and Birmingham in the first phase, and Manchester and Leeds in the second, will address capacity issues on the West Coast Main Line. Investments in upgraded signalling, including ETCS, will also help to increase the frequency of other services. However, these costly investments in infrastructure are not the only possible solutions.
While double-deck trains are a common sight on the continent, Britain’s restrictive loading gauge means that in a country famed for its double-decker buses, the rail network can only use single-deck trains. The AeroLiner3000 double-deck train concept is the latest attempt to change this and is a finalist in the “Tomorrow’s Train Design Today” contest launched by Network Rail and the Railway Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) in 2013. The contest is part of the Future Railway Programme and is run in conjunction with the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
The three finalists each received £750,000 to further develop their projects (see panel), and following 14 months of development and engineering work, Andreas Vogler Studios and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) presented a 1:1 scale 9m-long model of their concept at InnoTrans, with visitors to the trade show invited to step onboard to see how a future British double-deck train might look.
As you might expect, those visitors tended to head straight to the top deck where they found a 2+1 seating arrangement, and while not quite enough room to stand upright, a comfortable enough space to find a seat and sit down.
“It is clear that I can’t stand comfortably here for a long period of time,” says Mr Andreas Vogler, director of Andreas Vogler Studio, who led the design team working on the project, who was speaking to IRJ onboard the train. “But it is the same on most double-deck buses, business jets and some small aircraft. People spend millions on a Learjet, and will sit for hours in a car without ever standing. We are working in the paradigm that the train is not a normal train, but more like an aeroplane.”
To comply with Britain’s standard W6a loading gauge, the AeroLiner3000 is 3922mm tall and 2777mm wide, which compares with a 4320mm-tall and 2896mm-wide TGV Duplex. In the upper deck the ceiling height peaks at 1700mm above the aisle, while the lower deck has a maximum ceiling height of 1850mm. Vogler says the concept train is positioned slightly lower than conventional British rolling stock with the floor of the lower deck set 310mm above the track, which creates sufficient space for the upper deck. The entrance level follows the TSI for a 760mm-high platform with compatibility with Britain’s 915mm-high platforms. In this arrangement there are three steps down to the lower deck, but the design is adaptable to have four steps to comply with a 915mm entrance if this is required.
Maximising the interior area for use by passengers means that space for systems is at a premium and Vogler says equipment is positioned wherever space permits. For example, the HVAC ducting is quite traditional and is positioned adjacent to the seats, with equipment for this located in the ceiling above the vestibule. Fresh and wastewater tanks for the toilet are placed under the vestibule floor, while the power traction and conversion equipment is located directly above the bogies.
Vogler says that the concept is designed for an advanced light-weight, low-maintenance and individually-powered single wheel suspension bogie, but could be adapted for conventional bogies by utilising fewer or more steps on the bottom deck. “Our philosophy was that using one technology does not exclude another,” he says.
The train’s narrower profile is noticeable in the absence of a middle arm rest between the two seat pairs on the lower deck in order to maintain a suitable gangway width, with the window ledge designed to substitute this. The pair of seats on the upper deck are also positioned higher than the single seat in order to conform with the curved train roof, while the seat pitch is 830mm.
Loading gauge restrictions mean that the capacity of the train is increased by 30% compared with 50% on a conventional double-deck train, but the overall capacity of the AeroLiner is significantly higher than comparable vehicles. A 200.6m-long train consisting of two driving cars of 20.8m in length, eight 17m-long intermediate cars, and a 17m-long single deck multifunctional car for a restaurant or bicycle storage, all of which have a 0.6m gangway, will have 700 seats, and 400m-long train 1400 seats, with one-third of the train designated as first class. This compares with 375 seats in standard and 118 in first class in an eight-car Great Western HST, 627 in a nine-car IEP, and 508 in a 200m-long TGV Duplex. The train will also have small airline-style toilets, with one cubicle for every 36 passengers at maximum capacity.
Vogler says the prototype project was divided between three different elements: the design concept, for which his team of five was responsible; engineering, including structure, driving dynamics and aerodynamics, which was led by DLR; and construction of the model, which was headed up by Geta, Germany.
Vogler says the emphasis in each area of the project was to lean on technology used in the aviation sector to develop a lightweight solution. This is particularly apparent in the use of 60mm-diameter continuously-curved steel tubes, which are laser welded and form the train’s honeycomb-like structure. Andreas Vogler worked particularly closely with DLR on this element of the project with the research centre utilising a state-of-the art calculation process to identify the optimal design.
The result is an approximate 20% weight reduction compared with a conventional coach structure and 16.8% compared with a TGV Duplex which has an aluminium carbody. Vogler says the focus was on keeping the dimensions of the steel structure as small as possible in order to minimise weight while retaining the strength offered by steel. The steel used is the same as the double-deck trains used on the Paris suburban network and lighter than an equivalent aluminium application.
The structure offers striking diagonally-shaped windows, with a foam cladding used to cover the steel framework throughout. The windows remain one of the heaviest elements of the car body, and while improvements have not been found in this scope of the project, Vogler says this is an area for future development, potentially through using thin film layer glass technologies. At present, an individual coach is envisaged to weigh 27.1 tonnes without passengers across the four wheels, and have a maximum 17-tonne axleload.
As well as their distinctive shape, which Vogler says promotes an open feel, the coaches incorporate an electronic window dimming feature, developed by Vision Systems, France, which reacts to outside light conditions, and can reduce the load on the HVAC system.
The windows play a critical role in establishing the train’s interior ambience, which Vogler says was developed by AV Studio Munich and with its use of elegant lines, neutral warm colours and selected materials, is more akin to a private jet than a train. The use of organic LED lighting provides a comfortable environment for reading, while passenger information is interactive and operates through the passengers’ smartphones whenever possible.
“The design team looked at how to control the architectural space to make the train feel less narrow,” Vogler says. “Illumination and the shape of the windows is important for this as it presents a space that is comfortable and pleasant to be in.”
Another striking feature is the use of a distinctive wing design at the front of the train. Vogler says one of the greatest challenges with developing any high-speed train - the AeroLiner is designed to be compatible with TSI HS enabling operation at up to 360km/h - is to keep the train on the track. The idea is to utilise the phenomenon of sideways lift by using the wings to convert this into downward force, similar to applications in a Formula One car. Two designs were developed, and trials in wind tunnels while resulting in modifications to the design and angles of the wings to minimise potential turbulence, showed that this approach is promising. “If you start with a crazy idea, you may find out something,” Vogler says.
Designing the train to comply with the high-speed TSI reflects Vogler’s goal for the concept to be considered for HS2, which is expected to use double-deck rolling stock. Yet he says with the capability to operate on conventional lines, this could provide the train with a distinct advantage as it would have compatibility with not just the complete British network, but all of Europe.
InnoTrans marked the first public display of the concept, and Vogler says he received positive responses, including from established rolling stock suppliers. He is now looking to secure funds to transport the model to Britain in order to further build the case for the project. Among the ideas is a public display at a station which would help to sell what is currently an alien concept to the British public. The model is currently available for viewing at Wangen, near Lake Constance, with anyone interested encouraged to contact Vogler directly.
“I really think that there is a business case for it,” Vogler says. “You can put it on the track and from day one and it will offer an immediate increase in capacity. It helps to avoid expensive infrastructure investments and I think it is a concept that people will buy into.”
Seating designs boost capacity for passengers and freight
BRITISH design agency PriestmanGoode is the second finalist in the Tomorrow’s Train Design Today contest for its Horizon seating concept, the goal of which is to maximise capacity and comfort for passengers on services which frequently suffer from overcrowding.
The Horizon design incorporates an upright seating position but is designed to offer full-support to the passenger as well as a staggered seat design to increase shoulder space.
The seats offer a 20-30% increase capacity on a typical commuter train while also increasing standing space. The design also incorporates at-seat luggage storage and bag hooks, eliminating the need for luggage racks, while each seat has two foot rests to accommodate passengers of different heights. The table supports tablets and mobile devices at a range of angles for optimum viewing as well as an individual USB charger.
42 Technology is the third finalist in the competition and has developed the Adaptable Carriage concept, which offers adjustable seating to allow the transport of low-density and high-value freight during off-peak periods and when commuter trains are returning to the suburbs after the morning peak. The company estimates that it could deliver additional annual revenues of over £100m to the British rail network.
In the modular system the seats move on rollers to create space, with a single coach envisaged to have sufficient space for the equivalent of a single lorryload of freight. The company is working on a foldable seat design although it does not rule out using standard seats, and while an automated system is envisaged, manual unlocking, folding and storage is loosely estimated to take 1-3 minutes to complete.
42 Technology is currently filing patents for the technology and carrying out detailed engineering ahead of the launch of a demonstrator in the first quarter of 2017.