Christina Hughes writes:

One of the perks of working in London Bridge is the proximity to the Design Museum, one of the world’s leading museums of contemporary design. Since we’ve worked on a number of recent projects related to the future of transport, we thought the opportunity to hear Paul Priestman speak about his experience of innovative design for trains, planes and hotels was too good to pass up.

Priestman compared the current transport network in the UK to the communications network before the internet – disconnected, slow and frustrating for consumers.  Governments have typically responded to congestion in urban areas with short-term solutions such as adding extra lanes to highways and motorways.  But is this really the answer?

What if there was a way to link up the disparate transport network, to connect Beijing to Europe by train, and to change consumer behaviours towards transport? What if people could park at the local supermarket and catch a train all the way to Germany, rather than driving to the airport? Priestman’s design company Priestmangoode  is in the business of stretching our thinking about these questions. For example, Moving Platforms shows a video concept  of inner city trains transporting people from the city centre to the periphery, pulling up alongside high-speed trains and linking doors together so passengers can pass from one train to the other.  The high-speed train then disconnects and speeds on, allowing passengers to move across train lines seamlessly. Yes, safety issues would be a challenge, but it is certainly different.

Other ideas Priestman shared included ‘textured motorways’, whereby the outside lane surface was more uneven that the inside and middle lanes. Drivers in outside lanes will experience a much noisier journey, prompting them to think about moving inwards and freeing up the outer lane for others to overtake, reducing congestion. There was also an award-nominated design for wheelchair access on planes, changing our perception about disability and travel with a seat that detaches itself and can be wheeled around the plane and into departure lounges. Disabled travellers are therefore able to move around once on the plane and get to toilets, as well as switching to the airplane wheelchair in the airport, reducing undignified manhandling into a cramped airline seat.

One of my favourite ideas was that of the “Walklines” – purpose-built covered walking routes throughout the city, with the essential cafés and toilet stops en route. If you knew that you could walk from home to work in 40 minutes, without delays or weather worries, wouldn’t you be tempted? With innovative developments such as The Highline in New York City taking centre stage, I hope that this idea comes to London.

Of course, the future of public transport innovation lies in the hands of governments and transport organisations. Fortunately there are signs that attitudes of governments are shifting away from car dependency and in public transport’s favour. To quote Enrique Penalosa, the former Mayor of Bogota whose term of office was marked by radical transport innovation: “a developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.” Perhaps a seamless future could be on cards after all.

The image at the top of this post is taken from the Moving Platforms video by the designers Priestmangoode, and is used with thanks.

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