The introduction of high speed rail in the UK offers a huge opportunity to innovate across a wide variety of capabilities, from cutting edge technology and design, to the development of improved partnerships and new ways of working.
In Hitachi’s case this means designing a train that will set new standards in passenger experience, while being light, fast, green and reliable – all at the right price. As part of their work, Hitachi’s engineers are assessing the lessons that can be drawn from leading projects across the globe, from Japan’s Shinkansen to Europe’s fastest high speed train, the ETR1000. They are looking at what do they do well, and how can they be made even better.
The UK’s own Javelin HS1 train is also worthy of review, as Britain’s fastest domestic service and one of its most popular. Our designers are doing some serious thinking about what ‘next generation’ really looks like. What will redefine the comfort standards on British tracks in 2026? Italy’s ETR1000, nicknamed the Red Arrow, introduced a premium look and feel on-board by having the interiors designed by Bertone, the company behind iconic style of Aston Martin and Lamborghini. There are other simple innovations such as rotating rows of seats, already used in Shinkansen, which mean that everyone can face forwards, thereby helping alleviate the motion sickness that some people experience when they travel backwards. Yet, we recognise that comfort depends on more than just seats, so we’re looking at smoothness of ride too. One example is Shinkansen’s trademark long-nose shape that has been designed to smooth the flow of air over the train, particularly when it enters tunnels at high speeds, resulting in less vibration and a more comfortable ride for passengers.
We’re also looking beyond rail at other industries and at what is leading the way in cutting-edge technology amongst the world’s leading designers. Our journey of discovery will leave British engineers with greater knowledge and the ability to apply their experience to the trains of the future. Offering an environmentally sustainable solution is an important for the new train design. The ETR1000’s construction offers a lesson here, with it being made from 85% recyclable and 95% renewable materials. Furthermore, the noise caused by trains travelling at 360 km/h could be one of the most challenging issues to overcome, affecting not only the environment, but residents living near the line. In Japan, custom-made pantographs are already in use on the E5 Shinkansen trains, which reduce the noise produced at high speeds to around 75dB, well below European limits of 90dB. There may be learnings here for the UK.