Information published on 13 December 2016 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr eNews.

The train and us: a few minutes together discussing the major topics

Gérard Feldzer, renowned expert in the field of transport, follows the progress very closely.

At the question “Which are the innovations that you believe deserve to be developed further?”, he answers:

Well, nowadays, with regard to passenger transport, we are aiming at comfort, obviously safety, and then also connectivity, that is to say that we want to make sure that the travel time – and I mean from home to the workplace – does not impinge either on the health or in terms of wasted time. So these are spaces for living, and that includes the stations themselves: we can see stations that are becoming commercial centres or centres for leisure time. As a result, we are working hard to raise the profile of transport, not as something that adds to our fatigue or makes us waste time, but as a place for living, and that includes the trains themselves. Well, that’s the issue for the short or medium term.

And in the long term, we’re looking at increasing speeds and increasing capacities. We need to double up in almost all areas. And then there’s the technology, to consume less: to consume less energy. Like the box from Alstom, for example, which is on show at COP; they are presenting a patent, a system where the recovery of braking energy can be used to supply stations. And they’re managing to gain 40% of energy, which is a considerable achievement.

In terms of rail, the future, there’s a moment when you want to transport hundreds of millions of passengers, especially in urban and suburban transport, and when you’re transporting from point to point, from town centre to town centre, there is simply no other solution than the train. The routes are saturated, and they will be more and more, etc. There are composite options. You can use the verges, the hard shoulders, to make tramlines or rail tracks. There is considerable scope there for new inventions. But we’re going to try to increase capacities without causing any harm either to the health or to the environment. It is true that when a train crosses France, it does affect millions of people because they can hear the train. From a speed of less than five kilometres an hour, you can hear the train, so it is an inconvenience. It’s different with aircraft, for example: you’re going to annoy millions of persons at the take-off and landing, that’s true, around the airports, but all of the rest of the time it’s cruising. So there are pros and cons on all sides.

And there are some things happening that are quite amusing. In terms of future projects, there is one that quite astonished me, which is a combination of rail and air travel. EPFL, the Federal Polytechnic College of Lausanne, has designed something it calls “Clip Air”. And what exactly is “Clip Air”? It’s actually a plane fuselage, waiting for you in the station in the centre of town. It will then roll and attach itself under a transporter plane. There is one that may come from Gare de l’Est in Paris, another that can come from Lille or from Strasbourg or from Frankfurt, no matter: and the plane can take these three fuselages from the town centre. And the same thing happens in reverse in New York or elsewhere.

You can watch the full interview here:

And more to come regularly in the future!

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