HKX fährt mit S&S Tischen
Something old, something new
Artikel: (Artikel: Railway Interiors International – Natasha Edwards)
New operator Hamburg-Köln-Express chose to refurbish 1960s’ train sets to compete with Deutsche Bahn
Designing the Hamburg-Koln-Express (HKX) was not just a question of creating a new train, but also an identity for an entirely new (eponymous) railway operator. Hamburg-Koln-Express is set to launch an open access long-distance service in direct competition with Deutsche Bahn. Paradoxically, the new image had to be created from old rolling stock – three six-wagon 4010 EMU train sets constructed in the 1960s, which were previously in service with Austrian Federal Railways.
Hamburg-Koln-Express was founded in October 2009 as a joint venture between Locomore Rail, majority-shareholder RDC Deutschland (a subsidiary of USA-based Railroad Development Corporation) and British-Canadian advisor/investor Michael Schabas. Although deregulation began in Germany in 1994 with the Bahnreform, most previous initiatives have been small-scale and local. The HKX aims to compete with Deutsche Bahn on journey time, comfort and ticket pricing. With a top speed of 160km/h, three trains a day will cover the 450km between the two cities in just over four hours. Stops en route include Münster, Essen and Düsseldorf, and the train will serve three smaller Hamburg stations in addition to the central Hauptbahnhof.
Nonetheless, there have been some delays in gelling the project underway, initially in negotiating rail track access with DB's infrastructure subsidiary DB Netz, originally in competition against Keolis - still a potential future player, as is the French SNCF; HKX now has a framework contract until December 2015. With the three train sets currently being refurbished by H Cegielski FPS in Poznan, Poland, the company is hoping to start test operations around late 2011/early 2012.
One thing that immediately distinguishes this train is the total identification between the train, the company and a single route – Hamburg to Cologne. In fact, the initial competition held at the end of 2009 focused largely on exterior design and brand image. It was brand strategy and communication agency boy (based in Kiel, Germany) that had the idea of bringing in industrial designer müller romca, also based in Kiel, to make suggestions for the interior as part of its tender.
"It was the only team to bring in an industrial designer," says Jochen Müller of müller romca. "We visited the trains on a very cold December day. We took a lot of photographs and a few dimensions on site. The first action was to model it in 3D just as a basis for our design, so we could make renderings and test colours in Photoshop and so on."
The strategy clearly paid off - boy and müller romca continued to work together on coordinating interior and exterior colours and graphics, and collaborated directly on the interiors with HKX through intensive meetings and discussions to produce the detailed design specifications in summer 2010.
One idea introduced by HKX was to abandon classic class divisions (first, second and so on) for Premium and Basic, with five Basic wagons and one more exclusive Premium wagon. Müller romca's solution was to distinguish the two through differently coloured laminate panels and stripe fabrics. A bright pink creates a cheerful mood in Basic, while Premium is more sober and calm, dominated by dark purple wall panels.
"The colours of the walls reflect the classes and the needs of the passengers," says Müller. "Basic should be friendly, fresh and young and is for families and people who want to have cheap tickets. Premium is more distinguished and should look more private and quiet. Otherwise the main differentiation between Premium and Basic is on the service side; you get a meal served at your place when you have a Premium ticket and you have a personal light at the table, so it’s a more calm environment."
Basic-class wagons come in two configurations inherited from the old train – a classic six-seat compartment/corridor layout and an open saloon wagon with 2-1 seating and a centre aisle. There is also a multipurpose compartment, with space for bicycles, pushchairs, sports equipment or passengers and a lavatory with handicapped access.
Although the idea of stripes was in müller romca's proposal from the outset, the actual colour specification changed in late 2010 during the detailed design process, to reflect the colours chosen for the new logo and the shiny dominant deep plum of the exterior livery, as well as to coordinate with existing elements in the train.
"A challenge here was the adaptation of the, at first sight, old-fashioned colours, especially the dark red of the overhead hat racks, which couldn't be changed for technical reasons," says Müller. A deep carmine red stripe was added into the mix, to match the hat racks and window frames, while yellow and orange echo the wood and the anodised metal.
Although there was no formal passenger surveyor full-scale mock up, müller romca built a simple mock-up in its workshop, which it used to plan the tables and reading light rail, and to simulate the different seat fabrics.
The reuse of the existing seats was a precondition of the design, so special priority was given to the new fabrics. These were developed by müller romca in close collaboration with textile manufacturer E Schöpf. Two fruitful workshop sessions resulted in finding a way to integrate the colour scheme while creating a durable woven velour that was easy for the upholsterer to handle. The fabric is treated to meet fire safety requirements. To prevent the stripes looking too severe, for each stripe two of the six yarn colours were mixed to create seven harmonious colours.
Alot of attention was also paid to the quality of the lighting. In addition to the streamlined, custom-made table lamps in Premium, both classes feature new lighting rails carrying LED reading lamps, as well as an electronic panel that indicates if seats are reserved or not. Central overhead fluorescent lighting remains from the original train but müller romca will be trying out different colours of fluorescent tube during the trial stage.
In the end, most structural elements and fittings were retained and most of the surfaces were renewed. The original wood panelling has been preserved where possible. with high-density laminate panels in matching colours used to replace those that were damaged.
"The trains will be perceived as 'historical' in terms of the general ambience of wooden surfaces, traditional compartments, golden anodised metal parts, etc. but everything the passenger is in contact with, such as fabrics, flooring, reading lights, table lights, tables and trash boxes, is new," says MülIer. He believes the retention of the old features adds rather than detracts from the cabin experience. For example the layout yields generous legroom and an exceptional amount of luggage space, even in Basic - enough for large suitcases behind the seats. "Our first idea was to make everything new but after a while we became aware of the quality of the old environment," says Müller. "From point of view, it is the perfect combination of traditional and modem."
As is so often the case, the greatest limitations on the design were financial, but Muller believes the team successfully kept priorities in view. "The cost limitations played a role in every decision, but I believe nobody will notice the little places where we have had to make compromises," he says. The two areas that have changed least are the access areas and the lavatories, although flooring has been renewed in both, and there are many new elements such as new toilet seats and bowls. "We have been working very accurately with attention to the overall look and feel and the details as well to make a harmonious design," says Muller. "If you look at some trains, especially with local services, you wonder why the ambience is so often cold and impersonal. That's what we want to avoid. The HKX is a long-distance train and vandalism will not be a problem, but we believe that trains in general should look unique and be a place where you feel good. That is our goal - to make people feel good."
pictures by Jochen Müller www.muellerromca.de