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Tomorrow Today


To talk about the trains of the future, we're joined by Engineering Professor Claudia Langowsky. We'll be asking her when the Next Generation Train will be up and running, and what role rail travel will play in transport concepts in the future.

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DW: How long will it take before the trains of the future are in action?

Claudia Langowsky: I think that the trains with all the integrated new technologies will not be on the rails in the near future.

It seems that the system always builds better and faster machines, but it is not necessarily environmentally friendly. Do you agree with that?

The Next Generation Train is only a future study. And an increase of 25 percent of velocity might be a solution for very long journeys with no stops, but not for the very complex German rail network due to our high population density.

The transport sector is also looking at improving the rail network here. They are looking to actually have it free of CO2 emissions by 2050. Do you think that is possible? And how will they do it?

There are two ways: First we look at what kind of energy is being used in the rail system and we work to increase the proportion of renewable energy. The second way is to cut the amount of energy.

How would these potential new trains affect your work?

There are some very good things where you have, for instance, the lightweight construction to reduce weight, to reduce energy consumption, you have aerodynamic optimization to reduce noise and also to reduce energy. I think we will work more intensively on some parts and I think we will see some parts - but not the whole train.

There is often competition between cars and trains, or public transport. In fact, Germans use their cars five times as much as they use a train. Do you think the future trains might change that attitude?

The future train is a high-speed train and high-speed trains only account for around five to ten percent of passenger transport. Most of it is local or regional transport. That is the way we will increase the railway usage in the next few years.

What do you think is the biggest challenge of transport systems in order to become more efficient and more attractive to commuters?

I think when we see a growth in passenger and goods transport every year, we can only solve the problem together by using all modes of transport.

Interview: Anne O'Donnell