A transport internet system for the 21st century
Shifting people and freight by rail produces far less pollution than using cars and lorries. Rail transport also offers manpower efficiency advantages; Long distance commuters can spend their travel time on office work and freight companies don't have to pay drivers wages. So, why don't we all want to travel by train?
The snag is that people cherish the go-anytime, door-to-door freedom that road transport brings. Also, there are severe limits to the amount of desk space and privacy commuters can stake out when working on trains.
One way of giving travellers the best of both transport systems would be to build a nation-wide (then eventually a Europe-wide) network of new railway lines which run alongside the existing motorway and trunk route network. In areas where land prices are high, the railway track could be built over the line of the existing motorway.
The new railway network would be used primarily for roll-on, roll-off transport of cars, lorries and lorry trailers.
Once the vehicles are loaded, they could be inductively coupled to power supply units that re-charged the batteries on electric vehicles. This would allow electric vehicles to be used for long distance travel, using existing battery technology. The on-train power supplies could also be used to power mobile offices.
Motor manufacturers would be offered a new motor vehicle market, requiring vehicles which include complete mobile electronic offices, fully kitted out with state of the art computer and communication systems.
The main body of the trains, which would offer catering, shop and toilet services, would remain in constant motion along the main line of the track, with additional stock from feeder lines from the loading stations being shunted onto the front and rear ends of the moving train.
To speed up the loading and unloading, the vehicles could be moved on and off the rolling stock using remotely controlled trolleys which cradle the front wheels of each vehicle. As for today's train journeys, it may be necessary to change trains on complex journeys. To make the transition easier, vehicles would reside on the same trolley throughout the whole of their journey. The trolley system could be used to speed up the transfer of vehicles on to ferries and on to continental gauge railway stock for long trans-European journeys.
The internet analogy
Today's telecommunications internet makes cost effective use of the transmission network by splitting information into packages and shifting the packages round the network wherever transmission space is available. In a similar manner vehicles and their passengers travelling on long complex routes could be moved on and off rolling stock at any of the feeder stations along a route, to make maximum use of the network.
Figure 1. A vehicle and passengers using the Transport Internet to travel from Perth in Scotland to Swansea in Wales may need to make several train swaps along the route. In this diagram, the different coloured lines represent different main line routes and the circles represent stations where the transfer from one main line to another may be made.
The decision on the optimum route would take into account known patterns of internet usage and current information relating to such factors as road works and large scale public events in the vicinity of stations.
Mobile phones could double-up as pagers, alerting passengers to return to their vehicles, prior to switching trains.
In the 1960's, a British inventor, Professor Eric Laithwaite, invented a new type of motor, which would allow trains to travel quietly at high speeds, on magnetic cushions. Laithwaite had to abandon his research because of lack of funding.
Japan and China have now taken the lead in developing this environmentally friendly technology. Perhaps with the aid of Cheshire Innovation's cryocooler designs, which would reduce the cost of superconducting electromagnets, Britain could regain its lead in developing the next generation of trains.
Brief details of our cryocooler designs can be viewed on the Cheshire Innovation web site at