The 3D Express Bus (Or Straddling Bus)
Ideas for new transport solutions in London might not always originate in the capital. Much like Boris Bikes, future innovations will probably have been trialled elsewhere. In China, where there are 10 cities with a population around the 10 million mark, one such innovation is the Straddling Bus. Proposed initially in 2010 and subsequently voted amongst the top ten inventions of 2010 by Time Magazine, the bus will look like a huge Thomas the Tank Engine with a massive open mouth, through which normal traffic can pass. Passengers will be able to board and alight without disturbing traffic, and with the capacity said to be around 1,200, the bus’s engineers estimate that one 3D Express Bus can do the job (and the save emissions) of 40 conventional buses. However, if you trawl the internet to find out when this behemoth will be hitting a corner shop near you in North Finchley, you’re likely to be let down – there has been very little news about the design since 2013, but we can still hope.
Hyperloop is being dubbed – after boat, train, car and plane – as the fifth mode of transport. The team claim that they will ‘move people and cargo at speeds never thought possible’ and ‘make the world smaller, cleaner and more efficient.’ The U.S. based technology is being worked on by 100 engineers, who say that we are at least 10 years away from Hyperloop being commercially viable. Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of PayPal, has also recently pledged to build a test track in Texas for the technology. If this, the ultimate in new transport ideas, ever takes off, expect the time you have to ponder the daily free newspapers on your commute to be reduced dramatically – they anticipate being able to travel from LA to San Francisco in 20 minutes, moving at up to 700mph.
A bit closer to home and desperately close to fruition is an idea perhaps a more futuristic even than the straddling bus. Driverless Pods are being trialled in Milton Keynes over the next few months, as the government has recently just given permission to test driverless vehicles on roads. Driverless cars are the well-to-do commuter’s dream: cinnamon latte and FT in-hand as you roll eastwards from the suburbs to the city. However, apart from this very bourgeois notion, driverless cars will be genuinely beneficial for traffic, emissions, and giving freedom to those who are less able to get around London. The first prototype from Transport Systems Catapult, LUTZ Pathfinder, was unveiled last month and has attracted considerable attention from around the world, suggesting that the UK could perhaps be a leading light in intelligent transport systems in the coming years.
Here, we edge to the innovations that harness London’s untapped resources. The London Underline by architecture firm Gensler aims to do just that, and has subsequently won ‘Best Conceptual Project’ at the London Planning Awards in January 2015. Gensler proposes making use of the disused tunnels beneath the capital into a vibrant underworld of shopping facilities, walkways, and cycle routes. The initial routes proposed are between Green Park and Charing Cross Road, and Holborn and Aldwych. You may wonder how this will make a major dent in our carbon footprint or overcrowding issues, however Gensler claim plenty of other routes could be explored. There are sceptics who doubt the financial validity of these proposals, but, as with many proposals, the London Underline has raised discussion about how to not only get around London better, but how to make the most of what space we do have multi-dimensionally.
Unlike all the other ideas above, Cycle Superhighways already exist. Cities like Vienna and Amsterdam have so far formed the model for the conscientious, green commuter; however London just simply cannot cater for such volumes of cyclists. Safety on London’s streets is undoubtedly a question that hangs in prospective cyclist’s minds and TFL’s Cycle Superhighways initiative seeks to dispel this very stigma. Boris Johnson has announced that two cycle routes, costing £900 million and totalling up to 18-miles in length will be built as planned. This, perhaps of all the potential travel revolutions on the list, is the one which should make London a generally nicer place to be. Subtract the jostling for road space between lorries, cars and cyclists alike and you are left with an environment where drivers feel safer and less aggressive, and where cycling becomes a more inclusive method of transport – not just for the breakneck 20-something male generation in Central London.
By James Gunn