GK Designs the Narita Express N’EX E259
Design Development of the Narita Express N’EX E259 Series
On May 8,2009, East Japan Railway Company announced the new train model for the N’EX E259 Series. This type will be put into operation in the autumn of 2009. Following its successful predecessor, the N’EX253, GK Industrial Design was commissioned to design the new type.
Access to International Airport
N’EX is a special express train connecting Narita Airport and the city centers in the Greater Tokyo area. From the debut in 1991, the initial train type of the N’EX253 series was highly reputed for its quality design and convenience. It soon became the synonym of express trains connecting Narita Airport and Tokyo.
However, after 18 years of service, marks of superannuation began to appear on the surface of the bodies. And it was learned that the Keisei Electric Railway Co., Ltd. was planning to develop a new body for the Skyliner Airport Express, its direct express to Narita launched in 1990.
Train Body Structure
East Japan Railway Company changed its train body policy with the 209 series developed in 1990 for the Keihin Tohoku commuter line. The company reviewed the train body structure, and decided to use recyclable materials as much as possible in order to halve the conventional life of the body of 30 years, and offer new models more frequently. As the first generation N’EX253 model bodies were made of steel, rust began to appear. It affected the paint, and to cover the parts where paint had fallen away, putty or thick painting was applied, making the deteriorated parts more conspicuous. As of 2009, the majority of newly manufactured commuter train bodies have a stainless double skin structure, and express train bodies have an aluminum double skin structure (extrusion processed aluminum). As the new N’EXE259 series trains have an aluminum double skin structure, the corrosion resistance and smoothness of the body surface are enhanced.
The basic concept of the original N’EX253 series to extend hospitality to passengers is highly reputed. This is going to be carried over by the new type in a more contemporary manner.
The first N’EX253 series was one of the prime train bodies of Japan Railways after the privatization of the Japan National Railways, even though the train structure was conventional. There were luxurious furnishings such as the single row of seats along the window sides in the first-class cars, and hat rack style luggage racks like an aircraft. But we found that the requirements today were different. Realistic needs for large-size toilets for wheelchair users and multipurpose rooms, and the requirement of larger passenger capacity had to be met.
As N’EX connects Narita Airport and major terminal stations in and around Tokyo, such as Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Hachioji, Yokohama and Omiya allowing passengers to board it from the nearest stations to their homes instead of Tokyo Station. As the traveling time in N’EX trains is longer than the competitor line, we wanted to make the time spent in the train to be higher in quality. The design concept of the interior space was thus determined to help passengers feel like “taking an N’EX, and spending a relaxing time there.”
The exterior of the initial N’EX253 series was characterized by its coloring and frontal configuration that gives off a speedy and stable impression by the roof of the front car inclining forward. Infact, the frontal configuration is determined by the height of the driving room and other elements of the internal structure of the front car. It is especially difficult to design what is called the penetrating type that couples front cars. As a selling point of the N’EX service is its multiple terminals, coupling and separating front cars is a requirement.
For the new N’EXE259 series, in addition, passengers will be allowed to go back and forth between the connected cars. Because of these conditions, the height of the driving room was set at the same height as that of the former Japan National Railways Special Express trains. The simple and modern image of the first N’EX253 series was further polished to make the new N’EXE259 series edgy and attractive.
More sophisticated N’EX brand
The total design concept for the initial N’EX253 series was “a valuable mobile space.” For the new N’EXE259 series, this concept was further elaborated upon in the seats covered with leather for the first-class cars, the first case among the special express trains of East Japan Railway Company, and the application of fine details with dexterous skills. To express the uniqueness of Japan in the interior in a way that would be appropriate for an entrance to Japan, the traditional checked pattern was applied using high-tech devices. In order to enhance punctuality as the greatest advantage, the new N’EXE259 series trains were equipped with the back up operating system in case of mechanical trouble. With the addition of the latest IT technologies and crime prevention technologies, the N’EXE259 series was highly perfected as an airport express train. The brand image of Narita Express will be reinforced with these new developments including body structure and new technological expressions.
Toward Future Railway Design
Since the privatization of the former Japan National Railways in 1987, train car designs and services have been diversified resulting in the creation of a new railway culture. Railways are important infrastructure to which the needs of contemporary society must be reflected. Highly environmental consideration will be required of train cars. For example, the application of fuel cells can be considered. As trains are electrically operated from the beginning, it is generally considered to be easier to apply fuel cells to them than to automobiles. When this is realized, a more beautiful landscape without power lines and overhead wires alongside railways can be brought. With the further advancement of IT, the relationship between the public and the private may go through changes. Railway service itself may change.
Someone said that even if the Chuo Line trains had become better in design, the number of passengers would not change. It is true. But we consider it all the more important to design better infrastructure as we use in our everyday life.
Kosuke Wakao, GK Industrial Design
This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 11th, 2011 at %I:%M %p
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