Here is a response to your invitation (Comment, DW 9 March) to comment on the contribution that design can make to enhance the quality of life in London and other urban environments.
Any strategy for a quality public transportation system in London must consider three criteria: the systems must be safe, extremely frequent and yet readily affordable. The overspend to deliver the Jubilee Line extension means there will probably be no major additions to London’s Tube network for another 30 years.
The excellent Croydon Tramlink scheme has also been extremely costly, both in vehicles and infrastructure. But today’s unrestricted use of the private car within cities is set to end through punitive taxation, tolls and other measures, So what’s the answer?
Pedestrianisation of city centres has been successful and we will see many more examples of this. Running through traffic-free areas will be new types of zero-emission vehicles that are environment-friendly in terms of both noise and visual impact.
Design will play a key role in delivering vehicles with the appearance, features and interior ambience that meets the expectations of today’s passengers. Only then will commuters be tempted away from their cars. The design of stations/stops and associated landscaping must be consistent with the vehicles themselves in order to yield a seamless, stress-free journey experience.
The vehicles will extend the reach of existing London Underground and mainline stations and can also safely penetrate the heart of urban shopping centres.
Minitram Systems was formed three years ago by a consortium of designers, engineers and town planners to design solutions to the ever-increasing problems of town centre congestion and pollution. Key players in the company are Martin Pemberton, managing director of Warwick Design Consultants (designer of London’s new Jubilee and Northern Line trains and the extensively modernised ones on the Piccadilly Line) and myself, ex-design manager of London Underground.
An impressive collection of industrial partners have been gathered to support the group and its aims, and two prestigious UK universities are also proposing to work in partnership with the group to:
explore detailed feasibility studies for designated routes within the greater London conurbation;
examine the role of telematics to deliver safe operating controls and real-time passenger information systems within the vehicles themselves and their stops; and
to secure European Union “framework five” funding for international partnerships.
Finally, the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions has recently identified the need to support organisations such as Minitram Systems financially to develop demonstration vehicles and systems.
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