Trains that look, and ride, like planes, jets that take you across the world in half the time and cars that communicate are part of the new landscape in Australian transport.

Train travel for the next generation 

Innovation is reshaping the trains, buses and ferries that transport us around Australian cities every day and is changing public transport forever. From the outside to the interior, new trends are moving away from rigid and bland stainless steel to the sleekness of an aircraft. Look and feel is just as important as performance.

A major player in the field is Transport Design International, TDI – a division of industrial design company, Design Resource, based in Sydney and founded by Royal College of Art, Industrial Design School graduate, John Brown, in 1980.

TDI is a multi-disciplined transport design company specialising in the design and styling of new trains and the refurbishment of existing rolling stock. Design teams are located in Sydney and Warwick in the UK.

The group monitors international trends in transport design, engineering, technology, user interface design and materials.

According to Brown, the two studios are in constant dialogue and share workload on fast-track projects. “In effect our clients have access to a twenty-four hour office providing excellent response times and a large pool of expertise.”

“Typically, TDI is commissioned to undertake the feasibility, layout, styling and detail design of passenger trains, metros, light rail systems, monorails, people movers, buses and ferries. In the design and development of modern rolling stock, TDI caters for a vast cross section of passenger needs.”

The new Sydney train, known as the Fourth Generation Train (4GT), was designed by a team lead by Brown and Martin Pemberton in the Sydney Office of TDI. 

The latest technology and design tools were used by TDI to create an animated 3D virtual model of the new train that formed part of the Clyde Engineering submission for the NSW State Rail Authority Tender.

TDI also built a full-size mock-up of the new train which was used as a design evaluation aid. Think stealth aircraft and you have the starting point for the design of Sydney’s 4GT. “The front end design of a train can create a significant impact on the travelling public, says Brown.

“Our brief was to create an image for the new millennium – to develop an exterior with immediate visual impact and an interior that would leave a lasting and positive impression on rail users.”

Stealth aircraft, with their radar-evading angular lines and sense of power and movement, provide the TDI team with an image benchmark.

“Clyde, (now EDI) wanted to convey the 4GT as a world-class, safe, fast and comfortable form of transport. The Europeans have harnessed this concept successfully with the Eurostar, TGV and others, while the Japanese have made fast, efficient rail service synonymous with their Shinkansen trains.”

The front end of the TDI 4GT features a large curved windscreen extending across the top of the body and, combined with an opposite taper at the bottom edge of the windshield, forms a distinctive arrowhead shape at the front end.

The arrow head is framed in a bold safety yellow moulding which incorporates angled facets which slope back to integrate the front end with the body.

The use of yellow at the front end also ensures the vehicle is very visible, particularly in shunting yards and when approaching platforms and rail crossings.

Yellow has also been used for passenger entrance doors, reinforcing the striking front end while aiding the visually impaired.

In a significant departure from the architectural rigidness and stainless steel of Sydney’s trains, the interiors of the 4GT cars feature gentle flowing lines and curves to give an organic, yet modern feel.

Air-conditioning and lighting ducts follow the soft camber of the ceiling. Wide windows provide natural light supplementing the “ribbon of light” effect achieved by eliminating fluorescent hot spots, while retaining interior strategic light fittings.

“Colour also plays a key role in passenger comfort,” says Brown. “High-fashion colours will date a vehicle and care has to be taken to avoid those that impact on the size of the interior space.”

“We developed two interior palettes, one reflecting the colour, images and architecture of the city itself; the other mirroring the outdoor summer lifestyle of Sydney’s beaches and the harbour. To this end, cool blues, greens and pale greys predominate, offset by safety yellow for grab poles, rails and handles.

“Designing the 4GT has been one of the most challenging projects we have undertaken, time was tight and our client, EDI, was determined that only a world-class train incorporating the latest passenger comfort, features and styling would be acceptable,” says Brown.

The 4GT is currently in service in Sydney. Its introduction was delayed by non-performing software and advanced electronic diagnostic systems. Passenger reaction to the 4GT ride, comfort, style and interiors has been positive. TDI is currently working on new rolling stock designs for Australia and Europe.  

New heights in balloons

Mildura, Victoria, will this year host the 16th World Hot Air Ballooning Championships with more than 100 competitors from thirty-eight countries taking part in the first world championship to be held in the southern hemisphere.

Staff and management of Kavanagh Balloons will be watching the results with interest, as three balloon pilots with the Australian team will be competing with the company’s latest innovation, the EX-65 as their balloon of their choice.

While modern hot air ballooning has been around since the 1960s, Kavanagh Balloons have created a range of recreational and competition balloons designed to address the many challenges faced by pilots.

Sean Kavanagh, of Kavanagh Balloons, says a number of patents in the latest designs have been issued both in Australia and overseas.

“Patents covering the Smart VentTM deflation system are in place and six manufacturers worldwide are licensed to use the system. The more recent Lite VentTM system has had patents granted in Australia with ones pending for Europe and the USA.”

Competition ballooning involves the accurate navigation of a balloon using the available winds aloft to steer the balloon to a number of targets. Flights last up to three and a half hours and may cover a distance of 30 kilometres.

In a competition flight the ability to change altitude quickly to pick up a different wind direction provides both advantage and options to the pilot.

Kavanagh says that the radical shape of the EX-65 was created to reduce the frontal area of the balloon to significantly improve climb and descent performance over a standard balloon.  

International team for Boeing

Increasing demand from airlines and their passengers for faster, safer and cleaner jets that fly further is shaping the future for aeronautical engineering around the world.

Australian company, Hawker de Havilland, is vying for major involvement in the development of the Boeing 7E7 jet, set to enter service in 2008.

While the company is only one of about a dozen ‘tier one’ suppliers to Boeing for this project, directors are confident technology developed in Melbourne will ensure a spot on the international team of top aerospace companies developing the aircraft.

According to Boeing, the 7E7 base airplane and stretch airplane will carry 200-250 passengers in tri-class configurations on routes between 7,800 and 8,300 nautical miles (14,500 to 15,400 kilometres) respectively. 

Boeing has announced that the majority of the primary structure – including the fuselage and wing – on the 7E7 will be made of composite materials.

Composites will provide superior strength, lighter weight and because composites do not corrode like metals, airlines can increase inflight humidity, bringing an end to ‘dry as a desert’ cabin atmospheres. 

Hawker de Havilland is investigating options for the trailing edge of the wings, a complex system incorporating the flaps and ailerons. Using composite technology developed in Australia, the company has applied for Federal Government funding.  

Young designers steer the way

Teenagers in Melbourne and Sydney have provided key insights into how they live and the cars they want to drive as part of research clinics conducted by Toyota.

Many of the electronic systems developed for Toyota’s Sportivo Coupe reflect the way young people live and how they accept personal responsibility as drivers. 

The conventional licence plate is replaced on the concept vehicle with the licensed driver’s ID, the person responsible for use of the vehicle. 

According to senior designer, Paul Beranger, the Sportivo Coupe introduces concepts and technologies that demonstrate Toyota Australia’s design, engineering and prototyping capabilities. 

“Its creation included input from fourteen to eighteen year olds, providing a unique insight into the personal mobility priorities of the next generation of car buyers,” he said. 

The Sportivo Coupe was created by a young but experienced design team at Toyota, headed by Nick Hogios. 

Hogios and the team designed the eye-catching coupe with extensive use of glass panels and unusual dihedral doors that hinge upwards instead of outwards. 

According to Beranger, road safety was a high priority for the design team.

“An innovative electronic speedometer relies on signals from speed advisory signs to display the speed limit at all times in the car.”

“Mobile telephone and GPS technology enables the driver to keep in touch and meet with friends via a portable touch screen tablet,” he said.

Toyota has used state of the art telematics in the new Sportivo Coupe to automatically display the personal electronic licence number of the driver at the wheel.  Beranger believes telematics are a key part of the future.

“Toyota’s T-Link electronic system is designed to inform rather than control the driver. This powerful technology is a major step in how we are going to use motor cars in the future.” 

It all starts with the driver’s licence, which is a mobile phone-style SIM card that would be embedded with a host of data. 

The licence not only allows the driver access to the car, but also provides individual settings for driving position, radio stations, phone numbers, GPS tracking data for friends and even engine power output.  

Nowhere to store? Not anymore...

Designers at Ford went looking for a ‘sweet spot’ in creating the Territory, a vehicle that brings ‘lifestyle’ inside the family car.  

The storage design team has come up with thirty-three individual storage areas for everything from cups and drink bottles to DVDs and kids’ back packs, as well as special areas for wetsuits and beach gear along with big areas for suitcases and strollers. 

Simon Butterworth is design director at Ford and Marcus Hotblack is interior design manager. “This was a really interesting project, because it changed from what we thought customers wanted to a new direction. Our initial research told us that people wanted a wagon based vehicle that had three rows of seats. We then went and did more in-depth research and found that wasn’t what they wanted at all.”

“There was a feeling that Multi-Purpose Vehicles (MPVs) had very little street credibility because they lacked nimbleness. On the other hand Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) were seen to be powerful in appearance but lacked sophistication, being heavy on fuel consumption and perceived as being too ‘agricultural’.

“So what we did was build a conceptual ‘triangle’. This helped us to pick a ‘sweet spot’ which took the virtues of an SUV’s lifestyle flexibility, the virtues of a sedan in terms of driving dynamics and its sophistication, and then some of the virtues of a people mover like having loads of cup holders/storage bins and three rows of seats.

“The triangle showed us that the ‘sweet spot’ was right in the middle. We needed a vehicle that drew from the sports utility ruggedness and the lifestyle flexibility and one that drew from the driving dynamics of the new BA Falcon.”

Butterworth says the exterior was a result of understanding the trade-offs customers would be happy with between third row seat accommodation and an athletic appearance.  

“We decided to throw away the estate wagon platform and turn everything on its head... by this I mean looking at what the customer really wanted us to do... and that’s where we could then say we needed to approach this from a different perspective. 

“They wanted the vehicle for everyday use, but they wanted the flexibility of going down to the beach, or going to the snow. This vehicle is in 2WD and AWD models.”

Hotblack says one important consideration of the Territory was to ensure drivers and passengers could get into the vehicle without having to climb up.

“For mothers trying to lift babies it had to be easy. There is a five seater version and then a seven seater version. Rear passengers get the benefit of the theatre seating – they look over the heads of the driver and the front seat passenger.

“When we were developing the interior we had a Swiss army knife on our concept boards. We had to convey to the design team that we wanted to have the flexibility of the Swiss army knife in the interior.

"So that whatever any one did with the car it would adapt to their lifestyle...

“We had a storage design team that recognised Australians are pragmatic; they want stuff that is meaningful and does the job properly and they appreciate quality. So execution is so important. The storage had to be innovative but also had to work well.

“The floors lift up at the rear to reveal the underfloor wet stowage area, suitable for beach gear, wet suits or ski boots, it’s also big enough for a small suit case. The main luggage area has been designed specifically to accommodate golf bags, strollers and even an accessory fridge which runs off the power socket at the rear.” 

According to Hotblack, when you reverse the rear floor panel it becomes a durable easy clean food serving device at a picnic complete with cup holders. “The centre console also has a special chiller bag that fits into a storage area.”  

Fast and flexible for niche markets 

Flexibility and innovation are a high priority when it comes to business strategy at Holden. In a designled approach to manufacturing, a new concept called “flexible architecture” is attracting attention from around the world.

Flexible architecture at Holden means using its “modular” build process to maximise the number of vehicle body styles from the one single platform. According to Michael Simcoe, executive director Asia Pacific design with Holden Ltd, “flexible architecture”
is now the core of the business, and it is design led.

“It is the reason why members of GM Corp are coming from North America to visit Holden to find out how we are doing it.”

Simcoe believes the system concept not only addresses design issues but also the niche markets that are constantly changing. “It is often difficult to stay in touch with the many niche markets and we also needed to attract global customers – to help our export program,” he said. 

The “flex” strategy, says Simcoe, is now an integral part of Holden’s product development and supports the way the company will move forward.

From the base sedan platform, Holden produces thirteen variants (a different body style, left or right-hand drive, rear-wheel or all-wheel drive combinations) including the coupe, wagon, utility, cab chassis, long wheel base sedan and crew cab.

“We have one architecture – the underbody and the drive train (the things you spend a lot of money and time getting right), then we look down the production line at how we might change all the other bits.

"These are notionally the cheaper parts of the car – the design elements that differentiate each level of vehicle in the range.”

Simcoe says the success of the Monaro has helped pave the way for the innovative approach to be accepted by the company decision-makers.

“We proved to the company that we could do a cost effective low volume car at 7,000 units for the life of the car – we have been able to build a full car program that was profitable. The fact that it has become an export program as well has helped our case.

“Monaro was our first try and once the company had confidence in us, then things like developing an all wheel drive system that fitted under a range of body styles, developing a unique half-monocoque half-torque arm chassis frame system to support vehicles like the ‘One Tonner’ cab chassis and the Crew Cab became easier.”

Simcoe says it is important to be alert to market responses. “There are fifty-five different variants going down the line.

"If you give that choice to marketing without an overarching way of identifying what those vehicle models should be then you just get lost very quickly. You end up with piles of left over materials on the side of the ‘line’ that nobody knows what to do with.  

“For example the all-wheel drive Crew Cab (the Cross 8) takes a bit of the long wheel base of the Statesman, the floor of the sedan; the drive train of the ‘Cross Trac’ AWD system, takes the hybrid frame out the back and it takes all of the different elements we have now got and puts it all together in one vehicle.”

The early stages of the flexible architecture concept were just drawings on paper, Simcoe explains. “In the beginning, the concept was taking a bunch of boards which showed the initial sedan and then what you could do by just changing the proportion and small parts of the architecture; showing that to the Board one day at a product meeting and it started there.”  

Armchair travel with a difference

Sore bottoms from small seats, bruised backs and weak wrists may be ailments of the past for a growing number of fans committed to improving their fitness and helping the environment.

The recumbent bike, in its many guises locally and internationally, is enjoying success in both commuting and touring. Many riders prefer the laid-back version for comfort and speed to the traditional bike.

Melbourne-based, Greenspeed has an enviable reputation as one of the market leaders in recumbent bikes, trikes and tandems, some complete with side-cars. Greenspeed’s director, Ian Sims, who has a background in the automotive industry, says eighty percent of the market is export.

The trike frames are made from an aircraft grade alloy steel which, according to Sims, makes the machine relatively light, and easy to pedal.

“The seat has been designed in conjunction with a chiropractor, so that it gives adequate support in both the lumbar region and the shoulders.”

Sims says a feature of the new GT3 trike is portability: “It folds up and can be put in the boot of a car for transport. The hinge is set at an angle, so that as it folds, the rear ends comes down beside the front end, making a compact package.”

The GTU is another, new trike designed for parcel or goods delivery in crowded inner city areas, where cars and vans are not catered for.

The recumbent trike, with up to eighty-one gears to choose from, makes easy work of hills and heavy loads at low speed.  

In control on the golf course

With Australia facing an increasing ageing population, modes of transport will continue to change and adapt according to needs. One national manufacturer of scooters for senior citizens has taken his product to a new market.

Philip d’Huy, of Marlin Scooters in Beaumaris, Melbourne, has modified the popular Marlin scooter – which first hit the footpaths in 1987 – to challenge the traditional golf buggy. “We used all our experience of designing and making the scooters to ensure the very best in a personal golf cart.

"We recognised there was a gap in the market and set about producing a vehicle that overcomes a lot of the problems with the two-seater type of golf cart.”

PGC designer, Will Smith says informal surveys of customers highlighted travel range and portability as common concerns.

“Portability meant designing a frame which would fit in the boot of even a small car, a main frame which would split into two roughly equal segments with a removable steering column and seat,” said Smith.

While a number of Australian golf clubs have introduced the PGC for hire at their respective courses, and individual clients are purchasing their own, d’Huy is also keen to tap into the export market, having attracted the attention of customers in Holland and the UK.  

New-look booze bus

State of the art booze buses that look more like an office on wheels are the latest weapons for Victoria Police in its continuing road safety campaign. Kate Bissett-Johnson caught up with Jack Magree, director of CobaltNiche, and Inspector Ian Cairns from the Traffic Alcohol Section, to discover their involvement in the design and production of the new booze buses.

According to Inspector Cairns, the new vehicles meet all occupational health and safety requirements, providing a safe environment for both police and the public.

“To my knowledge no other vehicle has ever been designed from the ground up specifically to perform random breath testing. Other vehicles are usually converted cab-chassis or van based.”

CobaltNiche, a product development and engineering group based in North Melbourne, worked with Brimarco, a truck body building company to win the tender for the design and supply of seven new booze buses.

The original booze buses, a Victoria Police innovation, were modified crew-cabin trucks and were designed to last five years. Despite this many are still in service some twelve years later.

Being in high demand, and often used for shifts of up to ten hours, the requirements for the new booze bus were very clear. Primarily for assessing motorist’s blood alcohol levels, the bus needed to be able to transport personnel and equipment to the testing site.

According to Magree, the client had very definite ideas about the performance of all of the elements of the bus including how staff and the public would interact with the vehicle.

Specifications were provided right down to the kitchen sink. The vehicle acts as a multifunctional workspace for the police, for transporting them to the testing site.

It has seating for seven officers, providing them with two interview rooms, external access to equipment storage, and a gas lift rear door and public access stairs. It offers workers safe, visible, on site protection from the weather and allows them to have space for breaks and refreshments. 

The vehicle’s secondary function was to act as a sign of police presence and to perform as the Victorian Police ‘weapon’ against drink driving. “The booze buses are high profile tools that we use in our road safety strategy against drink driving,” says Cairns,

“The booze bus is designed to be unique and clearly identified. It readily portrays the drink driving message.” The graphics and sheer size of the first booze buses had had an unexpected positive effect on the public, both when the buses were driving around and while on site.

The new bus was to be styled like a ‘rocket’, being both aggressive and streamlined. The styling also needed to tie together various parts such as wheels, windscreens, indicator lights and headlights.

The interior spaces were at first laid out using schematics, the designers had an eleven-metre length of vehicle to play with. The new design separates the two interview rooms with a vestibule in the middle.

With modular interior panelling, the design approach for the interior was much like designing a traditional office workstation system.

The interior and exterior were developed concurrently, each affecting the other. For example, the front cabin section needed to taper towards the nose of the bus to match the width of the chassis.

This proved to be a major design challenge in handling the transition from the sides to the front of the bus. The raking windsrceen, which sits at an angle of twenty five degrees, and the distinctive grooveline runs from the top of the bus to blend with the front section, this cleverly balances the bulk of the rear of the bus.

To resolve human factor issues a full size mockup of the interior of the bus was built in CobaltNiche’s offices. Over forty police experimented with the cabin space and provided feedback.

The result of this testing revealed that more interior head height was needed. This was found in a creative way by removing some space from the transmission cover.

The rear entry makes for a cleaner design for the front of the bus and facilitates the use of the more rakish windscreen. This front area creates a strong visual signature for the booze bus as opposed to most buses with a side entry restricting the design to a more vertical windscreen. Rear entry also means that the cabin remains as a discrete styled ‘pod’ at the front of the bus.  

Building better boats

The Riviera Group combines a multi-million dollar research and development budget with a vision to create the best boats in the world and achieve ongoing success at its Gold Coast headquarters.

Teaming the flair of designers with the skills of engineers and the craftsmanship of builders, is aimed at ensuring the manufacturing process is constantly improved.

Encouraging innovation in both its products and among its one thousand employees is a top priority, according to Phil Candler, managing director with The Riviera Group.

“When we’re looking for innovation in design we start from scratch. We have three industrial designers on staff full-time. They are involved at the very beginning along with input from every area, from the CEO, Wesley Moxey, through to production and marketing.

"We also utilise the services of Frank Mulder, a world renowned naval designer who designs the running surface of our boats to increase the performance of our product. We incorporate extensive tank testing and computer modelling to ensure highest quality and best engineer hull forms.

“Sketches are drawn, then we move to 3D on computer and patterns are cut straight off the drawings. Now we are outsourcing ‘five axis routering’. Using this new technology means we achieve far greater accuracy with our timber work. 

“We create our first prototype out of foam, similar to what is now done with automotives.”

“When we are looking at new products we consider trends around us, we look at what’s happening overseas and we look at cars as far as shapes and concepts. We constantly redevelop existing products and look to launch new products, depending on demand,” says Candler.

The Riviera Group’s plant at Coomera has Australia’s only fully covered floating marina for better quality control and rigorous testing.  

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Visionary vehicle

Visionary vehicle

Toyota recently unveiled the Me.We – a visionary concept for a lighter and more affordable environmental car.



Décor products are marketed to fourteen countries including the US, Japan and the UK. The Décor range now numbers more than 400 products including kitchenware, insulated carry bags, and even some pet products.

Rest, Share