Is A Vertical Railway The Alternative To HS2?

HS2

Imagine a futuristic train system that soars into the sky rather than tearing across the UK countryside.

Trains would be held in place on magnetic tracks

Our cities are more overcrowded than ever before. And with a burgeoning world population, they’re only going to get busier. The UN predicts the current world population of 7.2 billion will grow by another billion in the next 12 years. By 2050, it will have reached 9.6 billion, with a large proportion of that gravitating to cities, as that’s where the jobs are. This will put enormous strain on our cities’ transport infrastructure, as well as resources like space.

Luckily, one concept has come up with a way to save space while revolutionising how we travel by train. It should make for some pretty spectacular views, too…

At 360m tall, the vertical high-speed train hubs are slightly shorter than the Empire State Building and twice as tall as The Gherkin

At 360m tall the vertical high-speed train hubs are slightly shorter than the Empire State Building

Vertical trains

Station redevelopment is a hot topic right now, thanks to the government’s proposed plans for a new high-speed rail network called HS2. In a report for the government, HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins recently called for “a more comprehensive development” of Euston station in central London. If he wants some ideas of how to go about making the most of the station’s footprint, he might find this design for vertical trains quite interesting.

The idea is that instead of building train stations the normal way, we should construct huge towers that hold the trains around their sides, like bullets in the barrel of a revolver. These trains would then shoot down into a labyrinth of underground tunnels that connect with the wider high-speed rail network.

These trains would be capable of travelling at speeds of 600 miles per hour – that’s more than twice as fast as those proposed on HS2.

A view of the Gherkin in London (© Getty Images)

The vertical train system would dwarf landmarks such as the Gherkin in London

Very high stakes

Because the trains would be stored vertically instead of horizontally, they could be longer than at present, because the only limit is how high you’re willing to build. The concept is the brainchild of UK designers Christopher Christophi and Lucas Mazarrasa and it shows a vertical high-speed hub that stands 360m tall. To get an idea of scale, that’s only slightly shorter than the 381m-tall Empire State Building. But it dwarfs the 180m-tall 30 St Mary Axe (or The Gherkin, as it’s more commonly known). Longer trains would mean more passengers, which would mean a more efficient transport network with less pollution.

There’s another upside to this vertical building idea, too. The designers propose building parkland in the space at the bottom of the tower that was previously occupied by the train station. So not only would there be more space to be enjoyed in the city, it would also increase the amount of green space, which will be more and more valuable as the world’s population grows and cities continue to swell.

The space saved at the base of the towers would be dedicated to parkland, making our cities greener

The space saved at the base of the towers would be dedicated to parkland, making our cities greener

Sheer magnetism

So how would it actually work? The trains would be held in place by magnetic structural tracks that run up the sides of the tower. When the trains reach the bottom of the tower, they would enter the underground tunnels which slowly level out to become horizontal rather than vertical.

From there, the trains would go on their way, connecting the whole country as part of a high-speed rail network that runs both overground and underground.

Seats on the train would turn like those on a Ferris wheel so passengers would always face out into the city

Seats on the train would turn like those on a Ferris wheel so passengers would always face out into the city

All aboard

The seat design of the trains is very clever as well. Instead of strapping yourself into a seat that’s facing down towards the ground, the seats will stay in a position that lets you look out over the city for the duration of your journey. (The part of it that’s overground, anyway.) They work in a similar way to those on a Ferris wheel.

The designers note in their project designs: “As the train travels and transitions from its horizontal formation and ascends up the façade vertically, the carriages will pivot similar to that on a Ferris wheel, allowing the passengers within the carriage to remain in an upright position and facing towards the cityscape.

“The carriages will be supported by a magnetic structure located at either side, eliminating the need for rails beneath and allowing for the carriages and its passengers to connect to the tower.”

The carriages themselves will be closer to the inside of a plane than a train. Each will take 10 people, in two rows of seats that face each other, so everyone gets a good view of the city through the panoramic windows. Overhead luggage racks will provide plenty of storage space, and retractable tables and footrests make it an altogether more comfortable travelling experience.

Trains would enter underground tunnels which would feed into the country’s existing high-speed rail network, both overground and underground

Trains would enter underground tunnels which would feed into the country’s existing high-speed rail network, both overground and underground

The towers

The towers are nothing short of marvels of innovation. Along with the parkland at the base, they will each have a rooftop plaza that will be a vast recreational and performance space for the public. They will offer awesome views of the city while you wait for your train. Well, it certainly beats a cramped and crowded waiting room.

If you don’t want to go all the way up to the top – maybe it’s raining and you don’t want to get wet, say – the atrium will contain a variety of shops, stalls, and cafes for passengers to enjoy before their journey starts.

The towers would be the first of their kind that are designed solely for public use, instead of existing for the purposes of a company or group of companies.

Hitachi is already moving its rail headquarters to London (© Hitachi)

Hitachi is already moving its rail headquarters to London in anticipation of extra business

Next stop: the future

Vertical trains would provide fantastic views across our cities for everyone who travels by train, rather than just those who live or work in high-rise structures. They would open up our cities to include more green space, and make station areas feel less cluttered. Because of their high-rise nature, they would also lessen the impact on surrounding homes and businesses during their building phase.

The technology is too far off for Euston’s redevelopment to take advantage. But by the time the government gets round to the next high speed rail network, let’s hope these vertical train hubs are a common sight in our cities.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s