Moving Platforms
by Priestmangoode


Industrial designers Priestmangoode have revealed a concept for high-speed trains that would transfer passengers to local services while still moving, instead of stopping at stations. Update: this project is included in Dezeen Book of Ideas, which is on sale now for £12.

Moving Platforms by Priestman Goode

By avoiding time-consuming stops, the Moving Platforms concept would allow faster long-distance journey times.

Moving Platforms by Priestman Goode

Trams and local trains would dock alongside the high-speed trains while still in motion, allowing passengers to walk between the two services.

Moving Platforms by Priestman Goode

As part of a fully integrated network, passengers would be able to journey from a local stop to any international destination without disembarking.

Moving Platforms by Priestman Goode

More stories about Priestmangoode on Dezeen »

Moving Platforms by Priestman Goode

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The following details are from Priestmangoode:

Britain’s leading transport designer unveils the future for 21st Century train travel

Britain’s leading transport designer has unveiled his idea for the future of train travel. Moving Platforms is a completely inter-connected rail infrastructure where local trams connect to a network of non-stop high speed trains enabling passengers to travel from their local stop to a local address at their destination (even in another country) without getting off a train.

Paul Priestman of Priestmangoode is the designer of the Virgin Pendolino train and last year’s hugely successful Mercury high speed concept train. Moving Platforms is a totally joined-up network that allows passengers to transfer directly from one moving tram or high speed train to another. This new integrated infrastructure mimics the way the internet works, creating a system similar to the one that allows your home PC to connect to a computer on the other side of the world via a series of connected networks.

Moving Platforms involves a network of high speed trains that run non-stop between two ends of a continent, New York to San Francisco for instance. The high speed trains run on a line that passes outside towns and cities with a network of local feeder trams that carry passengers from local stops out to meet them. As they near each other, the high speed train slows down slightly and the tram speeds up alongside it, at which point the trains physically connect via a docking system allowing passengers to transfer directly across from the tram to the high speed train and vice versa. Once transfers are complete, the trains separate, with the high speed train speeding up again along its route, and the tram slowing down and going back into the town or city centre with the newly disembarked passengers. The tram, in effect, acts as a moving station. The same system could also be used by passengers transferring from one high speed train to another.

This idea is not as crazy as it sounds. There are plenty of examples in every day life where we step onto a moving vehicle: escalators, moving walkways, paternoster lifts, ski lifts and Ferris wheels like the London Eye.

We are trying to build a new 21st Century train service on a station-based infrastructure that was designed in the 19th century for steam trains. We should be re-thinking infrastructure and building an inter-connected local-to-global rail network.

Current plans for high speed rail will require a new network of major stations, taking up huge amounts of space and with a cost and environmental impact that is potentially vast. These stations function for the most part as large car parks that are packed during working hours and empty the rest of the time, and are only in use by passengers for short periods of the day.

The big problem with high speed trains is that they are not very fast. Slowing down and speeding up as they move between stations means they are only able to travel at their full speed for limited periods of time (wasting vast amounts of energy in the process). On long journeys, the non stop high speed train could save a vast proportion of any journey time.

We lose huge amounts of time in transit waiting at stations as we change trains. Moving Platforms would enable passengers to travel from their local stop to an address of their choice in another town or country without getting off a train.

Many rail passengers use cars to get to their main-line embarkation station, so being able to link up to the high speed train directly from a local tram or train service means we could reduce car usage in towns and cities.

Track infrastructure is already in place in many areas. On each train line, there are two tracks, one high speed and one local, next to one another. This means that potentially, Moving Platforms would not take up any more land.

Existing local stations would serve the feeder trams, enabling passengers from rural areas to access the high speed line easily.

Moving Platforms could also be used for local deliveries and freight. This will help get trucks off the road and ease congestion on motorways and in towns and cities.
A journey planner App would tell you what local tram or train to get on in Boston to go to a local address in San Francisco for instance, making travel simpler and easier.

“I can’t believe that across the world we are spending billions on high speed rail making it run on a network that was invented in the 19th Century. I’m under no illusion that Moving Platforms is a big idea, but if we really want high speed rail to be successful and change the way we travel, getting people off the roads and reducing the number of short haul flights, it is imperative that the infrastructure we use works with, not against, this new technology to enable a seamless passenger journey from start to destination. The days of the super-hub train station are over, connectivity is the way forward,” says Paul Priestman.

  • clemente

    at first: stunning idea. second glance: this is what a student would have conceived. why?

    >> this system needs a rebuilt or adaption of the existing infrastructure

    >>this system needs each train to be punctual to the minute

    >>two trains connected are a higher risk if incidents happen

    >>the transfer gate needs to be even more massive than done nicely in the renders, because you have to convince people to change while at high speed so no gaps, little noise etc. that means massive use of material

    >>and after all: does all the effort justify the time saving? how much do you actually save, 5-10 mins? its like with the illusion that going 160kmh on the motorway makes you arrive faster than going with 130 kmh which traceable is an illusion

    • rjc

      reeeelax its only a concept.. the very notion of a concept is the problems havnt been ironed out.. yes there would be a tremendous number of obstacles to overcome and yeah big obstacles at that.. agreed. but believe trains and bicycles are the way forward for us, the human race… so bring on the train and bicycle concepts and ideas…

    • Hayden

      Did you even bother to read the content ?

      You last point for instance. On a measure of time alone, lets say theres 50 stops between San Fran & NY. 5mins per stop. 250mins – that's just over 4 hours time saving.

      Mass in constant motion consumes far less energy than one constantly accelerating and decelerating. There's a massive energy saving there.

      With your reference to speed. Typical bullet trains average at 200kph with top speeds around 350kph.

      Your logic is exactly the type of thinking this concept is attempting to overcome.

      • clemente

        typically a local train does not go that fast – rather 100 to 120 kph and that would even be a quick one – so to connect a high speed train with a local one you need to brake anyway and cant maintain your ultimate speed.

        and forget about the 50 stops, thats totally unrealistic

    • yuc

      Exactly. Moreover, High Speed Trains are a like upperground tunnels that cut through nature with high fences and everything. So lets slow down a bit and try to enjoy the distances of the world.

    • I agree – the end is not justified by the means.

      Another very important factor that doesn't seem to have been considered, the psychological impact on passengers, moving en-masse on a fast-moving object to transfer onto another.
      How many people do you see who wait in their seat until a train comes to a complete stand-still in a station (or at least when the train is slowing to a crawl)? Many from my experience.

      It seems someone has gotten carried away with an initial interesting idea without investigating it thoroughly.

      • Hayden

        WIth respect. You can't expect compare human behaviour between an existing and non-existant system and just give the same answer.

        Humans adapt. It's one of our great strengths!

        You do raise a good point though. Interesting to see how it develops.

        • There are no other methods of transportation (that i am aware of – i may be wrong) where passengers transfer from one high-speed object to another, so I feel this is an entirely relevant factor to be considered.
          I agree, humans adapt. However, they are not always willing to accept new formats as a collective. This would be a risk-element to the development of the concept.

          Besides, when was the last time you walked down a train in the UK to go to the WC or buffet car and not have to hold onto all the seats you pass, even so regularly bouncing off them as the 'high speed' (100+mph) train rattles along the Victorian infrastructure?

          • Tobias

            On a modern high-speed train such as France's TGV and Germany's ICE it is perfectly fine to move around the train (and go to the bathroom) at V-max. Having grown up in Europe, I find it strange that you say people always stay in their seats until the train comes to a full stop. The truth is quite the contrary. People want to be first in line to get off the train. Even here in the US you can barely keep passengers in their seats on an Airplane. Today's high speed trains are significantly more stable than planes. So: I think this concept has merit, especially in Europe when you deal with old central non-through stations. A 5-10 minute wait time at say 10 major stops when going through Germany can save an hour out of a 6-hour trip. Not bad.
            Additionally it would keep high speed trains out of some of the already clogged main train stations and reduce delays and hold-ups for other trains. Logistically: if there is a delay on a primary all secondary trains usually wait (within a window of time) to allow for connections. Relocating this to open rail would reduce the impact on creating delays for further trains.

    • felix

      It says in the description that the necessary track infrastructure is already in place in many areas.

      And it's not to save time, it's to save the energy lost in braking.

      • clemente

        beneath picture two it says "avoiding time-consuming stops"

        besides there is a thing called regenerative brake

      • I find this hard to believe. The vast majority of the British rail network is outdated, based on a Victorian infrastructure – hence the lack of any real high-speed trains in the UK.

    • Fernando

      Obviously it is not a real proposal for today, but I don't see why all the obstacles couldn't be solved in the future, if you think airplanes can refuel in mid-flight, trains moving alongside on rails doesn't seem to be much more difficult. Maybe in 10 years time the technology to do it will be available, who knows. And I think a lot of time could be saved, it could be used even in the underground. Between the time a train is stopped on the platform, plus the time it looses between stopping and accelerating, I think for each stop, at least 2 minutes are saved, in a long metro line (lets say 30-40 stops) which today takes about 1hour and a half, it would take only half an hour.

    • “Does all the effort justify the time saving?” If you think of train lines like Beijing to Shanghai, there are many trains that are all all fast, but some do three stops, some six, some ten, etc. between the two main cities.

      So if you want to take the train from a city departure you need to choose between losing time to go backwards, or choose the slowest train making ten stops.

      With such a system, all trains could be as fast as the fastest, but deserve more people along… losing time at the real stop only where the number of people is really big and taking the other one from smaller station “on the move”. But OK, only a concept.

  • deedee

    Did anyone think of putting a supermarket in the train station? That's how they do it in Belgium!

  • lajalousie

    see chineese early version :

  • From the looks of render #4, the idea of walking from one train to the other while having the rushing landscape right in front of your eyes would probably make a lot of passengers feel dizzy. Maybe the use some sort of 'intelligent' glass for the windows and the doors so they darken during the connections could solve that.

    Then again, I remember reading somewhere how they used to offer brandy to the first users of automatic stairs to help them with their vertigo, so who knows –perhaps our children would adapt very quickly to this sort of transportation.

  • NewTypology

    Brilliant idea. Particularly removing cars from the equation. But maybe the trains will take on the representational function of stations – high speed palaces.

  • Ren

    Even though it has a lot of obvious problems it still is a fresh idea on trains. As the guy says, they havent changed much since they where invented.

    In many western cities that already has a infrastructure it's not that realistic to do something like this but in Asia where megacities are exploding in size, they got big possibilities to do something new and smart from the start.

    I like the idea, it's a vitamin injection in a conservative industry with too many engineers in control. Speed isn't everything.

  • capo

    it's all gone a bit mission impossible

  • Banana

    Look great on the renders, but this is one of those ideas that will never work. Not that it is impossible but it doesn't really make any sense. I still prefer the safe way of transfer from the station while the train isn't moving at high speed. The risk of bad accidents to happen is high here. I rather be safe then sorry.

  • felix

    I think the idea of transferring between trains instead of using stations is great. But what Priestmangoode are focusing on in their presentation is a set of doors, when the real thing they need to sell is the widespread adoption of the moving platform concept. I don't think the doors are particularly amazing, although they may well do the job, but that's not the issue really.

    What we need to see is a visual explanation of the energy saved, and a worked up example of a city where this could work. You need several miles of track per change over, do we have that many opportunities for that in the UK? The video comes close to showing this but doesn't offer enough detail to be convincing.

    I'm sure I've read of a similar idea in some sci-fi book before. This was on the highway where you use your car to drive onto a gigantic vehicle that travels between cities.

  • hariyanto

    dude,…want to save more time & energy? design a teleportation machine! duh….

    totally agree with clemente.

    nice video rendering though..

  • felix

    I think the idea of transferring between trains instead of using stations is great. But what Priestmangoode are focusing on in their presentation is a set of doors, when the real thing they need to sell is the widespread adoption of the moving platform concept. I don't think the doors are particularly amazing, although they may well do the job, but that's not the issue really.

  • Crackerjack

    Looks great, but probably a bit risky. We all know what happened in Armageddon when they tried to un-dock!

  • Mks

    I'm puzzled with many of the the comments on the undesirability of passing from one carriage to another in high speed, since this is exactly what you do going from one wagon to another inside a train.

    It'll be hard to do this while driving 300km/h (since it'll take the 'feeding' train too far to get to this speed, stop, and drive the exiting passengers back to the station), but a concept with a non stop train to some extend should be implementable without any adaptations to the network.

    Interesting work.

  • zxcvbnm

    Can't we just get our normal train network working first? (U.K.)

  • Bob L

    No one has commented on the aerodynamics between the trains and the front of the walkway enclosure. One message mentioned both trains meeting at the exact instance.

    What happens if a person cannot clear the walkthrough in time? Both trains would have to stop in sync.

    Even at Disneyland, they have to stop the ride and moving sidewalk from time to time.

    The link for the Chinese idea seems more workable and not as time critical than moving stations.

    • felix

      if you add too much mass to the fast train would this negate some of the benefits of the idea?

      maybe the safety issue could be solved with a kind of airlock. and the door could be staffed as well. as long as any mistakes result in a person being in one train or the other (and not hanging halfway out) then it's not a problem.

  • MtoMArch

    A beautifully envisioned improvement on a great idea for High Speed Rail.
    Check out Peng Yu-lun's much rougher, and a little scarier, concept from 2007:

  • Kyle

    Just think about all the people that hold the door open when the train is stopped at the station. If someone were to try to do this with this setup, they’d end up losing a limb! It looks like there are some serious safety concerns with this one.


    This is nonsense. Yes, we have had moments where this relative concept has worked — ie plane refueling — but the infrastructural demands are too great for the relative advantages. Okay, so what happens when it snows? Or when there's a sick passenger? Or any number of things. We are talking about a train that acts as a platform (in addition to the er, stationary platform that already exists) that needs to get really, really fast — deal with ALL of the problems that are experienced when disembarking/getting onto the train — baby carriages, the very elderly, over-packed suitcases — that sometimes break — people falling, getting sick, or worse. Backpackers dropping banana peels between the nicely rendered door thresholds and having banana peels getting on the track ( with other garbage that probably has caused the whole thing to be delayed/inoperable in the first place. Terrorism, never mind that. We will save all of the time that it takes taking our shoes and belts off by using this brilliant, or maybe not so brilliant, idea. I hate this idea now.

  • Tron! to much of watching:)

  • mfs

    isn't the amount of possible transfers completely reduced? it's a one to one transfer if you don't want to be in a transfer situation all the time, and you wouldn't because it wouldn't be a high speed train anymore. In a train station you have one to x possibilities of transfer.

    • Can you change your destination when you're in a plane flying in the middle of the ocean?

  • sam

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • But…what if you miss your stop (as I have done so many time when I fall asleep on the Metro)?

  • I can see one obivously problem with the doors, albeit one that could be fairly easily fixed.

    In the render a connecting tube moves out from each of the parallel rail cars, forms a connection, and then the doors of each car opens. But what happens when some muppet (or luggage of something) stays in the connection between the doors? The connecting tubes wouldn't be able to retract without throwing the person or object onto the tracks.

    This could be solved by haveing the door on the end of the connecting tube on the main train rail car. This could then extend over till the door on the end of the tube is flush against the door of the local rail car. This way the only way for the doors to not close is if something or someone actually gets wedged in the doors.

  • mattg

    I think this is brilliant. But too many people are commenting on the restraints and ergonomic/logistical problems that exist today. This is a concept that is viable in 20 years (in a country with a developing rail system and greater distances between cities) to about 50 years away in a country such as the uk. Its totally do-able. Take it to Japan, more likely you'll get them to prototype it on a small scale.

  • kathryn

    I recall that China is trying something similar in their transit system as well. So who’s original idea was this?

  • Yeah the Chinese idea was much better ->

    In the Chinese concept, the shuttle car rides on the main train, passively, so there's no need to synchronise the speeds of the two trains. By using vertical transfer, there's no need to build additional rail tracks, thus taking up less land. Lastly, with the shuttle riding on the main train from one station to the next, there's ample time for passengers to transfer. And that Chinese concept is from 2007!

  • Miranda Babbitt

    As radical as this concept is, I wouldn’t underestimate the creativity needed to start supporting the population squeezed into cities and their incessant desires to have life move faster.

    On a slight tangent, everything in life is becoming faster, and so this will inevitably stretch to transportation. The thing about changing our transportation system is that it will be this high-speed life seen in physical terms. Right now, grasping the speed at which we share information is invisible, or at least I think of it that way. I don’t see my Facebook message travel in literal space to someone across the country. We’ll be seeing our technological progress come into a part of life that has stayed (relatively) the same for the past century (take that loosely – mainly in terms of the concept of the train station), and to me that is just out-of-this-world crazy. Not sure how I feel about it!

  • Julie G

    All I can say, is old people. Think about the old people. People with luggage and parents trailing toddlers. It’s a cool idea, and I like it, but I see it working only for young to middle-aged adults who commute.

  • Chris

    It’s a really good idea, it would speed up door-to-door travel time considerably! However, when you fall asleep on a train, you are most likely going to be awoken when the train stops and thus be able to go, “Oh! This is my stop!” and quickly grab your stuff and get off the train. With this new idea, that goes out the window.

  • beingtomothy

    Wow. This is a good idea. Both trains would have to have enough track after transfer for an emergency stop, no matter what the design.

    But rather than have the trains just connecting to each other, there could be a compartment on each end of the train, one for transferring from the fast to slow train, and vice versa. The compartments would close before the trains connected, physically move from one train to the other upon docking and then reopen after the trains disconnected. This would minimise transfer time, passengers crossing paths during transfer and potential accidents in the transfer zone.

    Frequency, speed and size of a tram vs a high-speed train is a big jump. Everyone being able to stroll down and hop onto your local tram and without stopping to transfer onto a cross continental high-speed train seems overly ambitious. The “moving platform” could be a line dedicated to connecting all metro/tram lines in an urban area to the high-speed line. It could be a section of track between two major transport nodes (2-4km apart) in each city where the connector train just moves back and forth as each high-speed train passes.

    I think the greatest merit of Priestmangoode’s idea is that the high-speed train doesn’t need to slow down too much, not getting the urban metro system and high-speed train moving in delicate synchronisation.

  • baju-baju

    Brilliant idea, but I must admit I was more impressed when I saw it about three years ago shown in China as the next addition to their fast rail system. According to their concept, energy conservation was their main aim.

    Funny times, when the west is ripping off Chinese ideas…