Regionalverkehr Bern-Solothurn (Bern-Solothurn Regional Transport; RBS) has placed an order with Stadler Rail for 14 custom-designed electric trains, after a five-week long call for crowd-sourced ideas via online platform Atizo. Nearly 700 ideas were submitted by commuters who regularly use the S7 line which travels between the Swiss capital Bern and Worb. The busiest route operated by RBS, the line carries 24,000 passengers daily.
The criteria for suggestions were simple: the ideas must be inclusive and have mass appeal, be technically and financially feasible and sustainable – the average life of a train is around 30 years. With these broad guidelines, hundreds of Swiss commuters seized the opportunity to submit their ideas. From power outlets, WiFi and toilets to non-slip floors, luggage racks and LCD screens displaying route details, the ideas poured in. From there, RBS chose some of the top ideas, and then added their own ideas based on legal specifications and infrastructural capacity and created a 25 question survey to whittle down the specifications of the 14 new trains.
Some of the crowd-sourced ideas that have been implemented in the custom-trains ordered from Stadler Rail include a countdown warning before door closure, more standing space for easier movement around the carriages, partially lowered floors to increase accessibility for those in wheelchairs or pushing baby prams, and chairs without headrests so those navigating on-board can spot empty seats easier. Door controls on the inside of the train will remain a manual button, but they will also introduce sensors to open doors from the outside so that passengers with their hands full can still board easily.
One of the notably recurring requests by those who submitted ideas was that for power outlets for charging mobile devices. The RBS survey that followed the initial call for ideals noted that even people who use the S7 route for short trips (the average trip is just 11 minutes) were in favor of electrical sockets. Meanwhile, RBS are looking at the feasibility of free WiFi after a similar number of respondents requested it. Glare-free lighting will also be installed to increase visibility within the train.
The 1·25 kV DC meter-gauge trains with a maximum speed of 100 km/h will have four cars with a total length of 60 meters, with 104 seats and room for 360 standing passengers. Scheduled to enter service from the end of 2018, it is hoped that by 2020 they will replace the current fleet which has been operating on the S7 route since the 1970s. The 134 million Swiss franc ($144.3 million) order from Stadler Rail is the largest ever procurement by RBS. “Our trains are our calling card,” said RBS Director Fabian Schmid when the order was announced last week. “They should be carefully tailored to the needs of our passengers, operations and infrastructure.” Meanwhile, Stadler Rail CEO expressed that he is “pleased that the opinion of the passengers was involved in the development process from the very beginning, and we now may decisively contribute to their comfort.”