Waiting for the invisible train

By | Category: Travel news
This is what the current visible Red Arrow Seibu trains look like.

This is what the current visible Red Arrow Seibu trains look like.

There is an intriguing story in last month’s architectural magazine, Dezeen.

Apparently the Japanese architect, Kazuyo Sejima, has developed a semi-reflective surface covering the exterior of the train. Why? The Seibu Group celebrates its centenary in 2018 and wanted something memorable for its Red Arrow trains. It approached Sejima; she came up with this idea.


The idea is that the train will blend with its background. But don’t waiting passengers want to see where the train is? Is a train so ugly that it sticks out like a sore thumb in the landscape? Seibu said the aim was to make the carriages feel like a “living room”, so that passengers can relax whilst travelling. Those seeing the train go past will presumably see something of the train but will also see the greenery of fields, forests and woods reflected from the carriages.

Will this be a new tourist attraction or is it just a publicity drive by Seibu Trains? An image of the trains on the Dezeen website shows a cigar-shaped train that is aluminium coloured. Someone described it as a thermos on wheels. Rather ugly to my eye but then when it travels, it will have the landscape shapes it passes through reflected of it so it may become more attractive.

Invisible it isn’t and, after all who would want a train you can’t see. Commuters would have an endless excuse for not arriving in work on time and comedians would have jokes for years to come. Instead of trains being delayed because of leaves on the line, the excuse could be that they were waiting for the invisible train to pass through not realising that it sped past hours ago. Politicians would be able to say they had ordered an extra 1,000 trains for the network but nobody could see to use them!

It all sounds like something from Harry Potter and which would leave from Kings Cross’s platform nine and three-quarters. In two years’ time we’ll know what it really looks like and whether it lives up to the hype. In the meantime we will just have to put up with our own invisible trains – the one that doesn’t arrive to take you on holiday or to your employment.

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