Train that doesn’t need to stop

In the current train system design, the train has to accelerate/decelerate to a complete stop for every station to pick up passengers. The video above shows a very interesting concept for an alternative solution to mass commuter trains – it is a train that doesn’t stop.

Instead of stopping, it’d have a slider carriage on the top of the train. The slider carriage serves as an intermediary ‘pod’ where boarding and alighting passengers transit (before diffusing into the main train carriages). Commuters at the station wishing to board the train would enter the carriage (and presumably at some point before the train actually arrives, the doors are shut). The train seamlessly picks up this carriage, while depositing its own carriage to drop commuters wishing to alight.

Without having to stop for stations, train journeys can be drastically reduced without sacrificing passenger convenience – it is the best of both worlds! I’m definitely not an expert in locomotion engineering, but on the surface it does seem like a possible concept (hey, we’ve sent people onto the Moon!).

A small (social) concern for me might be how effective/efficient can passengers diffuse from the pod into the rest of the carriages. In a system like this, there is even more inertia to venture away from the sliding pod if you’re just hanging on for a few stops, and people are likely to gather in the few carriages nearest the pod. This could however probably be solved by having multiple sliding pods instead of the singular one as visualized in the video.

If you can read Chinese, here’s a more detailed explanation by the inventor Chen Jian Jun. It seems like he’s been working hard trying to pitch his ideas to various agencies (including government, rail etc), but hasn’t been particularly successful.

What are your thoughts on this?

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9 comments so far

  1. Daniel on

    Brilliant concept. Plus, it eliminates that mad dash into the cars by people who just can’t be on time. http://www.bentpage.wordpress.com.

  2. Scott on

    Very Smart!

  3. Linyou on

    wow tt’s a pretty gd idea! But ha why is the detachable cabinet so short and tiny in relation to the actual one? Seems pretty much unresolved (if the cabin on top is full sized, it’ll definitely have stability issue right? This guy seems to be bluffing his way through). How people will get up and down? How people from all over the train must walk to the center of the train just to board tt detachable cabin (imagine a super big bus with only one exit?? everyone will be crowding at the mid section of the train!!!) I think an important factor to determine is the distance between each stops. This time saving probably makes more impact when there’s multiple,short distanced stops. However because of that passengers have less time to get up and down that transit cabin!

  4. Scott on

    Hi Linyou:

    You make great points! As I thought more about this system, there are also several safety issues such as – what happens if debris ends up on the secondary (upper) rails (either those at the station or those one the roof of the speeding train. The “station” car could bind and either derail (not fun at such high speeds) and/or accelerate so fast that people onboard would likely be killed. Also, the rails on the top of the train must remain straight – how does the train turn and keep rail-alignment?

    Hmm!

  5. KK on

    Hi Linyou and Scott,

    Some interesting points raised there – I’d just have to be less lazy in my post and dig through the inventor’s website for some of (his) answers to these FAQ questions. Some of the answers that he provided aren’t quite clear to me, in any case, here’s my best answer (on his behalf, as far as I understand it):

    1) Will it be too tall and become unstable?
    According to his website, the height of the top compartment is only about 1.5m (almost like a sedan or something). This is also to conform to standard height guidelines similar to double-storey trains already in existence. Within the 1.5m-tall pod, you sit (rather than stand as what many may have imagined). A central aisle of about 2m height is also provided for: if you notice carefully, you’d note that the main train has a depression in the middle. This depression corresponds (I guess) to a sunk-in corridor for the transition pod.

    2) Rails must be straight?
    I suppose the rails are probably not made of a single piece along the length of the train – probably more like sections that can be fastened to be straight when approaching a station.

    3) Overcrowding the transition-pod?
    One – with the implementation of this train system, more people can alight/board at the smaller stations, instead of the current hub-and-spoke model where you typically have central nodes with massive traffic boarding/aligthing. This helps to reduce the number of people boarding/alighting. Also, multiple transition pods can also be used.

    I don’t think he addressed the issues of debris.

    Overall I think there are probably still a thousand-and-one practical problems to solve if this were really going to be implemented. Social issues, like pod-crowding; Comfort issues – I think most people might prefer the transition pod to be standing room rather than aisle-and-seat for a transitioning situation. Safety and reliability would certainly also fare very high on that list of obstacles.

    That said, for me I think the refreshing part is to see an alternate, different vision that we might not have imagined ourselves – it’s a step in breaking the norm, exploring and experimenting away from the norm and the given of the current system.

  6. Scott on

    Hi Kok:

    I agree with you – I love people pushing the limits. It’s a bit like concept cars. Sadly, even though they are often loved at the auto shows, you will never see the whole car in production, but they always lead to innovation reaching the people in one form or another. I think it’s important that we critically discuss such concepts to help advance them to reality – a kind of late brainstorm.

  7. noroadzone on

    this is really awesome! looks great!

  8. Ash Waechter on

    It’s great to see this idea has been taken up by somebody. I had a similar idea when I was living in CT. I had related to a friend some twelve years ago that there should be a “non-stoppable” train. My idea had the cars side by side instead of on top of one another as in this example.

    I figured there were four tracks going into NYC but only two trains (one going each way). The middle track (currently reserved for passing through stations) could be the track with the regular train and the outer tracks (closer to the station) would be the “pod” tracks. Of course, I’m not an engineer, so I didn’t do anything with the idea but I told bunch of people.

    All the pitfalls mentioned above would also be profound in my concept as well. Great idea and I hope future engineers will think of this concept and run with it.


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