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Future-proofing transport design

These principles are at the heart of PriestmanGoode‘s philosophy and underpin our specialised work in transport design, be it trains, aircraft or entirely new transport infrastructure concepts. Our primary concern is to create transport systems that will stand the test of time – decades, not years – and as far as possible are proofed against the perceived challenges of the future. I believe, we’ve got to ‘get the grit out of the system’ and make what we’ve got work better through design and technology.

Efficient design in cities

Immense challenges are on the horizon. In 1900, 10% of the world’s population lived in cities. In 2007, the number had reached 50/50. In 2030, 60% of us will be city dwellers, and by 2050 experts say that figure will be 75%. Enlightened city leaders are actively exploring how to tackle these challenges and create the infrastructure necessary to stay competitive in the decades to come.

Take London, for example, where the population is forecast to reach 10 million by 2030. We’ve been helping the London Underground to respond to growing demand through a new train design that will improve both network capacity and commuter experience. As through-trains, they are free of doored divisions, offering more occupiable space. Exterior doors will be double-doors, aiding faster boarding and alighting. As the trains age, the internal modular system will allow components to be replaced with ease if damaged or to be updated. These smart design features will ensure each train will live a long life and continue to be an attractive transport solution.

Faster connections, less fuel

The introduction of high speed services is vastly improving this situation

Designing a central transport system that works more effectively is only one half of the task. In countries worldwide, major cities are disconnected from each other as well as regional hubs, making rail ineffectual for long distance. The introduction of high speed services is vastly improving this situation, however journeys are still disrupted by the need to alight at an interchange station in order to board an onward service. Our team has been working on a concept for fast trains capable of connecting while in motion in order to allow passengers to transfer between them – we call this concept ‘Moving Platforms’. By reducing journey time, rail will become an efficient alternative to travel by car or plane.

Air travel will undoubtedly increase in the future, as will fuel prices, necessitating the need for designs that improve efficiency. Many airlines are exploring lightweight materials, components that can be easily replaced if an aircraft is rebranded as well as the use of electric vehicles to taxi an aircraft to the runway, thereby delaying the need to start the plane’s engines and burn precious fuel.

Electrifying our behaviour

What is difficult to predict, but certain to change, is the use of personal vehicles. Encouraging people out of their cars is a critical challenge for the future, but the leap does not need to be as drastic as abandoning the car altogether. Electrification is already transforming the consumer market and helping to decarbonise our towns and cities. This theme is front and centre of the DHL Blue Sky Transport Design competition, which I am judging.

There has been also a great deal of talk about electric powered automated vehicles – from driverless lorries to cars which are accident-proof. Beside safety benefits, what automated vehicles offer to individuals is an opportunity to decouple from car ownership and adopt a car-sharing strategy. Potentially, it will pave the way towards shared services, so after taking you to the shopping centre, rather than remain idle in the car park, it will pick up other passengers and take them to their destination, returning when you are ready to return home.

Undeniably, we are designing in challenging and changing times – and if we think about mass transportation solutions we must remember our role in developing sustainable solutions. As Pedro Gustavo, Mayor of Bogata, succinctly summed up: “a developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s a place where the rich use public transportation.”

DHL Blue Sky Transport Design Award

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