Off the Rails – The future of urban trains

Project: NAVIA: People, the city, the sea | Management

Project: NAVIA: People, the city, the sea

Off the Rails – The future of urban trains

Students from the IED Barcelona Design University have been working in collaboration with Talgo, the Spanish railway sector’s leading company, to present a series of ideas for the urban trains of 2035 at the Catalonian Railway Museum. The projects presented aim to take the user experience to the next level with interactive surfaces, trains that filter outdoor air using photocatalysis technology and carriages that can move either vertically or horizontally depending on the user’s preferences.

This is the first collaboration between the IED Barcelona Design University and Talgo to research and design new urban train systems for the near future. Students from the Undergraduate Degree in Design have worked in close collaboration with Spain’s leading railway company to design trains especially for urban environments. The rolling stock firm challenged students to completely rethink the urban train system looking ahead to 2035 with the traveller’s experience at the fore, following an environmentally-friendly holistic approach that takes people, accessibility and smart mobility into account.

Current demographic trends anticipate an exponential growth in big cities that will turn them into highly polluted areas with significant congestion issues. Public transport rises as the ideal mobility solution, but only if it is capable of providing new functions and contributing to a better society.

The students’ response envisions mobility systems that create a more customised journey focussing on comfort and an enveloping travel experience, offering a sort of oasis in the megalopolis of the future. Sustainability and environmental care are two factors that all of the projects considered. Their ideas included trains with electric systems, hydrogen engines and photocatalytic surfaces to reduce contamination.

To produce these final course projects, the students were helped and guided by Talgo’s innovation department, which involved holding a series of meetings over the project’s three-month duration. The initial meeting took place in Barcelona, where Talgo’s experts in innovation and product development María José Vargas and Víctor Quintana set the students their challenge. One month later, it was the students’ turn to travel to Madrid and present the conclusions of their research and the topics they intended to work on. In April in Barcelona, the students presented the progress they had made in phase one of their projects to seek guidance and a few final instructions on how to complete the last phase.

During the final presentation earlier this morning at the Catalonian Railway Museum, Talgo’s Head of Innovation, Emilio García, announced that: “We are delighted to collaborate with IED Barcelona and discover the ideas of a new generation of creative minds, whose current disruptive designs will be the projects of the future. We at Talgo are always looking for ground-breaking ideas to redefine tomorrow’s mobility and we hope that IED students will feel inspired and impassioned by this first‑hand experience with the professional world in a sector like rail, which they all actively use.”

Project descriptions


Student: Marc Garriga

GOTIO is a new form of self-powered hydrogen tram-bus using a hi-rail system that is able to purify urban air. Designed to navigate the city centre, its main function is to ease the congestion caused by private vehicles. The invention is able to clean the air using photocatalysis, which means better quality of life for citizens by turning contaminated outside air into purified indoor air for users.


Student: Juan Diego Pareja

Vertal is a collective smart mobility vehicle equipped with a system that alters its direction allowing it to move either horizontally or vertically. The goal of this project is to create a public transport means that takes passengers to their final destination in a customised fashion. 


Student: Pol Sagués

Neural intends to create a new urban transport system for the megalopolis of the future. The idea is to enhance the user experience with a system of interchangeable platforms that would allow passengers to change from one route to another without switching trains. The system is supposed to make journeys shorter and avoid waiting times while offering top-quality service.


Student: Rebecca Barrueto

Resilience came in response to the question “How to transform a monotonous and crowded journey into a pleasant experience?” The train features a digital pane of glass showing a peaceful landscape and interactive surfaces with a variety of content to entertain passengers during their journey. Resilience chooses materials like wood and anti-bacterial fabrics evoking nature and warmth to stop passengers from feeling stressed or flustered. The project also comes with three different colour and trim combinations to choose from according to the time of year or location, which adds to the tailored experience.