‘Made to order’ trains for improved performance

The next generation of trains being designed to the specifications of individual manufacturers will help improve the rail operators’ track record of poor performance, say industrial designers.

The design of existing rolling stock, which was built to British Rail specifications, has been blamed for contributing to delays.

However, since the rail system was franchised, train manufacturers have taken over responsibility for train maintenance. “So manufacturers have got the control to design the trains the way they can maintain them,” says Jones Garrard director Michael Rodber.

Jones Garrard is designing trains for South West Trains, North Western, Great Western, Gatwick Express and Scot Rail, and is also involved with West Coast Main Line.

“In theory [the fewer design standards] gives the manufacturer a free hand,” adds Rodber, and leads to fewer standard designs. “This allows the engineering designers to be more in control of what they are doing.”

“There is an added incentive for the operators to increase design content, in order to improve services so that more people travel on their route,” says Priestman Goode partner Paul Priestman.

With industrial design being driven by the manufacturer, Rodber adds that better performing trains will be produced.

These new-style trains are being customer-driven rather than technology-driven. With its functions, route and user in mind, “trains are designed specifically for a client and customer”, says Priestman.

Priestman Goode will be designing Virgin’s West Coast trains for business users, and Cross Country trains for recreational travellers.

Design is also being driven by the safety regulations which will be imposed at the beginning of next year by the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions. These include disability access and allowances for the partially sighted.

The new planned shadow “strategic rail authority” has yet to consider the issue of its identity.

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