The future of rail travel

Paul Priestman and his design group Priestmangoode have come up with an innovative, off-the-wall way to speed up rail traffic in Europe.

Priestman’s plan doesn’t involve upgrading the train engines or tracks in any way. Instead, he proposes getting rid of train stations altogether.

What Priestman sees replacing train stations are an elaborate system of rail trams that would run throughout the city, all focused on a specific neighborhood. These trams would pick up people at their houses, preventing them from ever needing to walk or take a bus to a station. The trams are rail bound train cars that are not capable of the high-speeds of their commuter train counterparts.

Once filled with passengers the tram would then make its journey to connect to the main rail line. Once that’s accomplished it would speed up and meet with a high-speed passenger train. The train and tram would dock, allowing people to move from one to the other. After a few minutes, the tram would undock and the high-speed passenger train would continue on, no longer hindered by the extra weight of the tram.

A high speed train in Toyohashi. Photo from Creative Commons.

While the docking process would require the high-speed passenger train to slow down, it wouldn’t require it to stop. This allows the train to move much more quickly since it no longer needs to decelerate long before reaching a station, nor does it have to sit unmoving, waiting for people to get on board.

While the idea seems a little out there to some, it’s an entirely possible concept. The system’s creator admits that it would be some time into the future before such a system would be able to go into use. The reason for this is the massive amount of work it would take to construct a tram system. Not only would it take years to develop and build, but it would constrict roads and have a negative impact on commerce.

While the concept of a mobile-based train system that doesn’t require the main line to stop does sound exciting and interesting, for it to truly work a city would ultimately need to be built around the tram system. The major drawback of this system is that it requires either years of congested streets or that a new city be built specifically to work with this system. Neither option seems particularly plausible.