Due to the technical history of railway use in Europe, there lies a fundamental problem in the integration of continental travel. While the railway infrastructure was being established in Europe, the train was an important tool of military. This led to intentional differences in regulations, signals, track gauges and so forth between the European countries which still exist today. For example, a German train has the accelerator handle on the left and the brake on the right, while a French train is the other way round. The solution is already being developed: a common European train for a continental railway.
Four years of research involving 37 partners, including railway operators and manufacturers, has delivered a mock-up of an intercity train. It is customised to use all European signalling systems at up to 300 km/h. The train has been specially designed (both
inside and technically) to be familiar to all European train drivers and passengers. The buttons, for example, must be easily understood by any nationality.
At a research simulator in Northern France, 17 train drivers
from different European countries test a control layout for a 200-metre-long
train in various scenarios (high speed runs, emergencies, etc.). Their feedback
is required for the optimal design of the functional displays, allowing the drivers to concentrate on the different controls while guaranteeing a safe ride.
Safety acted as a guide for the design of many elements of the train. Much
of the space at the front of the train is taken up with “crash” elements to absorb the energy from an impact. The driver's cabin is laid out to allow a quick escape, while illuminated strips lead passengers to the exit during power failures. Plentiful emergency buttons are strategically situated within the train (even at floor level in case a passenger falls). The ergonomics for the driver have also been optimised with a height-adjustable instrument panel.
The project is still in its early stages. After all the specifications have been finalised, manufacturers can start putting the plans to use. With well-defined functional, electrical and mechanical standards, these trains of the future will be able to accommodate all European users.