Trains should be both sexy and comfortable

Letters to the Editor should be sent to Design Week, 50 Poland Street, London W1V 4AX. Fax: 0171-734 1770. e-mail address:Design-week@centaur.co.uk

As a practising designer in the railway industry and a regular user of public transport myself, I am writing in response to Henry Law’s letter (DW 18 April) regarding his perception of the apparent priority designers give to the front-end of trains over other interior issues.

Clearly Mr Law’s grievances are real enough and I sympathise with him on lack of physical space for the customer. However, this space is heavily determined by the UK gauge which defines the space envelope into which all trains must fit. The available space on any train, in terms of its length and cross-section, is limited by the railway infrastructure on which it operates.

It is therefore the designer’s responsibility to design facilities within this severely limited framework and also to meet the challenge of achieving inherent flexibility in vehicle design in order to allow train operators to tailor a product to their specific business requirements and customer needs. Factors that cause particular concern are ease of installation/repair and cost-effectiveness for an interior or exterior feature, and neither is designed to the exclusion of the other.

Consequently, exterior front-end styling is just as important as any other provision; it is a sign of the times and must be seen in context with its surroundings. Who would deny, for example, the aesthetic impact of the high-speed train front-end, which was designed by Kenneth Grange, and its contribution to the business success of InterCity?

As long as safety is not compromised in any way, railway vehicle designers have as equal a justification to make trains look sexy and dynamic as automotive stylists, who are allowed to aesthetically indulge as a matter of course.

Elaine Mackie

Vehicle designer

Interfleet Technology

Derby DE24 8UP

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