City Life: What The Future Of Train Travel Looks Like

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The combination of railways and cities is nothing new. It’s a relationship that dates back deep into the 1800s. You have The Tube below London, the Subway under New York, Le Metro tunnelling around underneath Paris, the Elevated Transit system of Chicago, the F-Line of San Francisco and the tram system of Nottingham to name just a few. So, yeah, like we said, this is hardly a recent epiphany that hasn’t caught traction. However, there is one problem that needs to be urgently addressed and that is the issue of change. These city-centre railway systems still operate like they did back when they first began and that isn’t good enough.

More and more and more people are living in these huge metropolises. The houses of old have been broken up into a dozen apartments each and the new builds now stretch so high they tickle the underbelly of the heavens. But this has been as much about necessity as it has been money. The world population has boomed over the last couple of decades, unfortunately, though, the metro systems have not adapted enough to meet this increased demand. It is a problem and one that has become paramount in discussions regarding the future of these cities and the way they operate.

So, what does the future of these city trains look like?

Well, the hope is that they can become totally autonomous trains that are packed full of all the amenities that a passenger could hope for, timeliness becoming a promise that isn’t broken, while the arrival and departure hubs expand to meet the needs of a more interconnected country, allowing metro riders to then step onto trains that use magnetic levitation to get around. The best bit is, we’re not being wildly unrealistic. The ability is already there and the reality is in operation, it just needs amalgamating.

In Seoul, you have the comfiest subway system on the planet; constant mobile signal, television screen and heated seats. In Japan, you have high-speed trains that easily do 300 miles per hour. And in Denmark you have the Copenhagen Metro, which is celebrated for its fully driverless trains that operate at a very low-cost. So it is there, it is all there, it just needs to be brought together.

Of course, that is just the tip of the iceberg because, in order to meet the growing demands of our growing cities, there are other requirements that need to be put into place, and these are them:

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A Lot More Trains On Tracks

By the year 2031, it is predicted that 63% of the global population will be living on top of each other in cities. That means there is going to need to be a lot more trains on tracks in order to meet this increase in demand. The reason this needs to happen and not a dispersion of population is because 75% of national economies are generated within cities so, in order to maintain this, the population needs to be able to get around easily.

Dispersion is possible if we manage to up the railway operations of other major cities, something the USA is focusing on at the moment. They are investing heavily in upgrading cities like Los Angeles, Houston, Miami, Denver, Phoenix and Salt Lake City, in an attempt to take the pressure off New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington. The UK has also begun doing this, investing in HS2 as a means to get people in and out of London far quicker, reducing the strain on London’s housing problem. Fingers crossed other countries will follow suit.

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Totally Autonomous Trains

If driverless cars are expected to start hitting the roads any day now then there is no reason to say that driverless trains can’t be a thing too. In fact, it would make more sense in this sector that the car sector. At the moment, most systems operate on a split-control basis whereby the trains navigate themselves but driver’s are needed to bring the train to a halt, open the doors and leave the platform. What’s amazing, however, is that 8% of trains now operate completely autonomously, such as the system in Copenhagen.

Obviously, the dream would be to reach 100% autonomous, especially if they can start to connect with the introduction of driverless cars, not least because it would reduce the number of railroad accidents which, according to the professionals at, is a growing problem. The great news is, more and more systems are heading this way. London is hoping to have almost 300 new Tube trains on the tracks in the next five years, each of which will be fully autonomous. This isn’t all, though, because Honolulu is working hard to build the first driverless railroad system in the United States, something they are basing on the Vancouver SkyTrain model, which is an excellent example of what autonomous trains can achieve.

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A Much Better Experience

In order to make trains as amazing as possible, you need to delve deeper than the carriages themselves and create stations that are hubs for people to explore and enjoy, places that people will want to hang about in. As you can probably imagine, the likes of Dubai and Tokyo have already embraced these futuristic hotspots and done so successfully, and other places are following suit, especially in America.

On the east coast you have the Fulton Centre, which is a $1.5 billion destination designed to be the ultimate spot for all those heading into Manhattan, while the west coast is seeing the Transbay Centre currently under construction which, as you can see at, is a $4.5 billion dream that hopes to be the Grand Central; Station of the future. Both of these are going to be more than just train stations that house fast food outlets and pee-stained magazine stalls. They are going to be modern neighbourhood’s in every sense of the word.

As for the trains themselves, we’re hoping they will go the way of Seoul’s subway and become outfitted with all the amenities a modern traveller could hope to enjoy. TV’s, heated-seats, internet connectivity, delicious on board meals, smoother rides, shorter travel times and better safety. The latter is something the Japanese have taken seriously truly unbelievable earthquake sensors that activate a safety procedure like no other.

We can’t tell you for sure, but this seems to be the way the railway sector is heading and we can’t wait.

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