China’s high-speed Winter Olympics train is designed to rival airplanes

Designed by Tangerine, the train ferries media personnel and sportspeople to and from the centre of the Games.

Tangerine has designed the official Winter Olympics train for this year’s event held in Beijing, China.

The Winter Olympics train is a necessary, yet lesser seen, element of this year’s action. Designed by the London-based studio, the high-speed train has been specifically developed to help ferry sportspeople, media personnel and fans from Beijing to the ski centre in Zhangjiakou.

“A warm, celebratory colour palette”

According to Tangerine China director Weiwei He, the train is the product of more than five year’s work between the studio and its client CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co.

As is to be expected, the Winter Olympics has inspired much of the design work for the interiors of the train, alongside traditional Chinese heritage. He says a “sport winter look” has been adopted throughout, through the introduction of motifs like snowflakes, icicles and dynamic shapes supposed to look like snow carvings.

Since the timing of the Games also coincides with the Chinese New Year, she says China’s “lucky colour red” has been used as the base of the colour palette, alongside rich champagne golds. The final result is “a warm, celebratory colour palette that represents happiness and good fortune”, He says.

“We wanted this to be a relaxed and informal area”

He says two of the most special areas of the train are the restaurant and VIP carriages – both are designed to ensure passengers still feel in among the action as they travel between Beijing and Zhangjiakou.

The catering space, which also accommodates the media centre, features a sculpted bar with large television screens on which to watch the sporting events, and sofa-like lounge seating for comfort. “We wanted this to be a relaxed and informal area in which journalists can work as they sped to and from the Olympic Games,” He says.

Meanwhile the VIP carriages are influenced by premium airline seating. A staggered layout maximises space while offering privacy to travellers, who are also able to relax in lie-flat beds. The visual language of the area was inspired by the Great Hall of China, which Tangerine’s designers visited as part of their cultural immersion stage of the project.

“The high-speed train can offer a cheaper, greener and more convenient journey”

The visual references to the aviation industry are very deliberate, He says. “An ambition of China Rail was to compete with regional airlines to provide a high-end travel experience,” she says.

“The price is comparatively cheaper than business class flying and offers a better experience than on narrow body airlines – more space, better seat comfort, bigger storage provision and a quieter, more private environment,” she says. “Compared with a regional two- or three-hour flight, the high-speed train can offer a cheaper, greener and more convenient journey in about the same time.”

There are several interventions to boost the luxury of the service. Wireless charging, personal screens and secure seat-side luggage stations all feature.

Some elements of these airline-inspired seating options did pose a problem at first for the Tangerine team, He says. The biggest being the cultural expectation in China that travelling should be done facing forward. “So even Economy seating needs to rotate 180 degrees at the end of the line in preparation for the return journey,” says He.

To solve this, all seats are fitted with a rotating mechanism, which was developed by designers working in a pop-up studio alongside CRRC’s engineers. “It was a great way to learn about China for our Western designers,” she says.

“An important part of the legacy of the Beijing Winter Games”

While the train will perform an important role during the Games, its usage will extend far after the closing ceremonies. As He says, after the Winter Olympics it will be brought into regular rotation by China Rail.

This has always been the intention for the train, so the design needed to reflect that early on. He says the Tangerine team worked closely with CRRC Changchun’s engineers to develop a design solution that could be “precisely manufactured” to deliver this.

As a result, all of the seating can be easily removed, replaced, and reconfigured to ensure the train is adaptable. Additionally, the media seating in the restaurant car will be replaced with high-density second-class seating. The VIP carriage will continue to run on selected services as a standard offering for passengers.

“The hope is that this train will be an important part of the legacy of the Beijing Winter Games,” she says.

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games are well underway, having kicked off officially on 4 February. We have already looked at how the Beijing 2022 games was designed and had a look back at the design evolution of the Winter Olympics.

What do you think of the train’s interiors? Let us know in the comments below…

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  • Heinz G. Otte M.A., Prof. February 13, 2022 at 9:10 pm

    Having managed the German InterRegio train system, the Lufthansa Airport Express, some details for the ICE and other trains in the ’90ties and study projects I did with my students at Seoul. I find nothing new, concerning the functional details of this train. Even the overall design is not fascinating. If I look at the restaurant car it looks designed very simple without fantasy and love.

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