Rail travel also needs to offer a customer experience. What contribution does Knorr-Bremse make?

In the comfort zone: these features make train travel a real pleasure

Passengers want to reach their destination with the greatest possible comfort and a minimum of stress and noise. This goes for almost all modes of transport – sports cars and motorcycles excepted. And trains can compete with the best of them. A number of highly innovative systems and solutions from Knorr-Bremse are already helping to make train travel quieter, easier and more comfortable.

The smiling waiter serves the couple an exquisite appetizer. The evening sun is pouring through the window. Their journey across Australia, from Adelaide to Darwin, will take three days. But this is no ordinary means of transport: the pair are on board The Ghan – an historic train, renowned for its luxurious features and colonial flair, that traverses mainland Australia with just a few dozen passengers on board. At least, that's how it appears on the promotional video . Life's good.

The Ghan focuses on a fact that is often overlooked in rail travel: comfort is king. Before venturing into five-star cuisine and room service, comfort begins with the basics of well-being – this equally applies to subways and light rail, commuter trains, regional trains and high-speed trains that bring millions of people to work, to their friends and family every day. From effortless boarding and a pleasant room temperature to focused work in a quiet setting, Knorr-Bremse has developed a wide range of systems and solutions to make train journeys worldwide more relaxed and enjoyable. What are these features that help turn the train into a comfort zone? And why does comfort matter to passengers in the first place?

Trains have to compete on comfort

All over the world, the trend points towards comfortable, "smart", stylish and sensual products and services. A study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers concludes that people will "buy more, be more loyal and share their experience with friends" if a product offers them comfort, convenience and utility. What counts above all is the "customer experience". The mobility market is no exception.

Come on in: easy boarding with high-tech door systems

The little step that folds, slides or swivels out helps them to enter the train quickly, effortlessly and safely – particularly by bridging the gap between platform and train.

Although passengers give little thought to the surface beneath their feet when boarding, that little step that folds, slides or swivels out helps them to enter the train quickly, effortlessly and safely – particularly by bridging the gap between platform and train. The Knorr-Bremse subsidiary IFE develops variable boarding systems for regional, suburban and high-speed trains. Folding steps, for example, are controlled by the door drive, so no separate drive or control components are required. Sliding steps cleverly vanish beneath the vehicle. Swivel steps, employing kinematic solutions, often come into use when extension paths need to be precisely defined. Public transport operators in Germany are coming under increasing pressure to install such systems across their networks. The legislation states that accessibility of public transport must be in place from 2022.

In addition, Knorr-Bremse in the USA is currently supplying systems for light rail vehicles that use hydraulic leveling systems to raise and lower the boarding height to match the platform, making it much easier for passengers to get on and off. The existing hydraulic braking system is designed with the ability to supply the additional leveling cylinders installed in the bogie area along with the standard steel springs. And how does Knorr-Bremse help to increase passenger comfort during the journey?

Quiet compartment: less noise and draft thanks to new sealing systems

Just sit back and relax. What once seemed unthinkable in some train seats due to poorly sealed external doors is now made possible with doors from IFE. Their benefits go far beyond easy boarding. The market leader recently presented a new generation of sliding door systems. By improving the sound insulation of both exterior and pocket sliding doors, it significantly reduces the noise level in the compartment (and thus for the passengers). And the best thing: whereas conventional seals only close at the side edges of the doors, these systems have a mechanism that lifts the door leaf before closing – so the upper and lower edges are sealed too. Besides enhanced noise insulation, this means less cold air is forced into the vehicle, especially at high speeds. The bottom line for passengers? Now they can travel in comfort at a constant temperature, stretch their legs or read the paper without feeling a cold draft and getting a stiff neck. Meanwhile, the train crew can control the compartment temperature using less energy.

Well-tempered: the right climate for every situation

The right room temperature inside the vehicle goes a long way to creating a feeling of well-being.

Hot summers, frosty winters. The strange thing is how we seem to long for the opposite to whichever season we are in. It is no different on trains: the right room temperature goes a long way to creating a feeling of well-being. With the world's leading heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems from the Knorr-Bremse subsidiaries Merak and Kiepe Electric, the room climate – and thus the air around us – can be adapted to the season, the weather and the outside temperature. That goes for metro trains in the tropical urban jungle, cross-country journeys in the Russian winter, or trams in the stop-and-go of commuter traffic. In Europe, the systems are fairly unobtrusive: passengers here are not keen on excessive temperature changes. However, in particularly warm regions with high humidity, people are often looking for a clearly noticeable cooling effect with high air circulation. And since the systems can be operated using the almost climate-neutral refrigerant CO2 (R744), they make an additional contribution to protecting the environment.

Gentle braking: a smooth ride with no sudden jolts

What happened there? For decades, travelers absorbed in a book have been shaken from their reverie as the train jolts to a stop. This "stopping jolt" was generally considered unavoidable due to the sharply increasing friction coefficient of brake pads at low speeds. Yet Knorr-Bremse engineers have made progress in minimizing this effect in the last few centimeters of the braking distance. Thanks to an even smarter system design, the precisely calculated braking action is now so smooth that hardly a shudder passes through the train. Passengers do not even notice as the classic disc brake takes over from the electrodynamic brake at low speeds. As it develops the next generation of brake control systems, Knorr-Bremse is striving to ensure that braking is as even as possible across the entire speed curve, regardless of fluctuations in the systems involved. Ultimately, this will mean no more coffee cups spilling over.

Jolt-free braking is a major upgrade to the passenger experience.

Incidentally, a study by Omnicom Research Group shows that people want and expect the same things from brands, including mobility service providers, as they expect from good friends. These include reliability, authenticity and feeling like their needs are understood. Every little comfort plays a part in achieving this: effortless boarding, a pleasant room temperature and a smooth, relaxing ride.

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