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Transport / Mass transit

"Personal trains", coming soon to disused lines near you

Disused railway tracks have long been a symbol of the abandoned, decaying parts of cities – but, with the right technology, they could still be used as a means of transport. HeHe, a French urban design studio, has taken it upon itself to design vehicles which can take advantage of unused train, tram or metro tracks; if you’re feeling particularly daring, they could even be used on operational tram networks (though as a responsible family publication we cannot endorse this). 

Through the designs, the agency is hoping to explore the idea of “personal train travel”. This is a faintly untenable proposition in which individual, car-like vehicles whizz around on train networks, thereby removing the need for tickets, trains or stations. The jury’s out on how transit authorities would manage traffic amid this terrifying free-for-all.

Here are a few of their designs: 

1. Tapis Volant

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This translates as “magic carpet”, which may be a little grandiose for what is, basically, a monorail skateboard propelled by a tiny electric motor (though it does feature a soft fabric covering and carpet-esque fringing). Acccording to HeHe, the driver can only balance “when seated in the Lotus position”:

This posture not only mimics the operation of a “real” flying carpet, but also links body posture to movement in a way that driver has to be Zen to operate. 

Right. 

2. Metronome

This motorised capsule uses both sides of the track, can carry three people at a time, and, mercifully, doesn’t require riders to sit in the Lotus position. The design agency launched a prototype in Paris in 2012 on a stretch of unused track at the city’s outskirts; it’s hoping to try something similar in Manchester.

3. Radeau de Sauvetage

OK, this one’s really silly. Yes, a sail could technically propel a single person down a track if the wind were strong enough, but the life jacket just seems a little excessive. 

 

To the relief of transit authorities the world over, all three designs currently fall into the category of public art as opposed to serious transport propositions. But you never know – next time you’re riding a tram, watch out for potential collisions with inner-city sailboats. 

All images: HeHe.
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