Arup collaborated with Nikken Sekkei on a feasibility study of an alternative approach to commuter train interiors as part of the RIBA ‘Tomorrow’s Train Design Today’ competition.

The competition was set up by Future Rail and RIBA in the UK and was successful in fostering innovation in train rolling stock design, finding new ways to meet capacity, cost, carbon emission and user experience demands in the coming decades.

The Air Train project was the result of a collaboration between Arup’s Product Design team in London and Arup and Nikken Sekkei teams in Tokyo and was shortlisted from 48 other design concepts.

The Air Train concept features transformable seating to accommodate changes in passenger numbers between peak and off peak travel times
The Air Train concept features transformable seating to accommodate changes in passenger numbers between peak and off peak travel times

The design concept, called Air Train, features a flexible interior with seating which can automatically be deployed during off peak times and retracted during rush hour to create 40% more passenger capacity. The seat’s structure was derived from compressed air, allowing the design to result in significant weight saving benefits whilst remaining comfortable.

Arup experimented with silicone and cut proof aramid fibre composites to ensure comfort and long term durability. Other innovations included OLED real time information displays, surface air emitting ventilation and ultra thin chemically strengthened glass.

Prototype seats helped the team to understand people’s reactions to the innovative designs and informed the development process.