Written by Gabriella Blake
Imagine this. You’ve got a train to catch. You’re on the platform. You see your train approaching in the distance. It comes zooming by, so on you leap and you breathe a sigh of relief that you’re going to get there on time. You amble down the carriage in search of a seat and as you glance out the window you catch a glimpse of the platform whizzing away in the opposite direction.
This is the vision of Priestmangoode, the London-based design group behind the concept they dub ‘Moving Platforms’. Paul Priestman, director of the company, advocates that train journey lengths are far greater than they should be, and attributes the necessity to stop as the cause of their time-consuming nature. “The problem is we're trying to run a 21st century service on a 19th century infrastructure," he suggests. "I think that stations are completely out of date. With the modern trains that we're building now, having to have them stop at stations is ridiculous. The railway system is almost like the telecommunications system before the internetarrived.”
The idea is that a local tram-like vehicle would act as a mobile train platform, running on a track alongside the high-speed train, picking up and dropping off passengers. The moving platform would allow the high-speed train to continue racing along the rail line without the added journey time created by stopping, waiting and restarting.
How efficient would this system really be, though? And would people take to it?
Yes, it would quite significantly cut down on journey times, and any commuter can raise a smile at that prospect. However, the environmental impact would be devastating. We all have a responsibility to bear, whether we acknowledge that or not, and double the trains of course means double the carbon emissions.
Add to this the fact that, because there would be public uproar if the current rail system was completely shut down and Moving Platforms was made the only option, gradually introducing people to this revolution in transportation would require an additional rather than replacement rail network.
You only have to take a look at your local supermarket to see how reluctant people are to change: rather than use the instantly available self-service tills, many people would prefer to join a long queue and purchase their shopping that way – every week refusing to experiment with the new system.
I suspect they would be even less keen to get out of the mindset that when the train is moving, the door should be closed. No matter how many safety measures are put into place, many people would be terrified they might “miss the window” – or should that be door?
Although Moving Platforms is an interesting idea, it is perhaps more fitting for sci-fi movies than for everyday life.