diamond geezer

 Monday, July 04, 2016

For the first of this month's traffic-free Sundays in Regent Street, TfL turned up at dawn and littered the street with vehicles. This was the Transported by Design Festival, a one-afternoon extravaganza to celebrate all that's great and good in transport design.

Down at the bottom of the street by Piccadilly Circus were the old buses. Rather more appeared a couple of years ago when TfL held a full bus cavalcade, but the limited historic selection from horsebus to 1959 New Routemaster kept snap-happy crowds pleased enough.

The most unlikely appearance was a tube carriage, a Standard Stock from 1927, plonked carefully in the middle of the street outside the Barbour store. Many queued eagerly to look inside, while dozens attempted to take photos of this unusual sight without getting dozens of others in shot.

A number of tents and marquees had been erected, some containing exhibitions, some things to buy, and some both. TfL had also brought along a few of their favourite commodity-based sponsors, so it was possible to buy frozen yoghurt and play a particular type of guitar, but not get a cup of tea.

After the Past Zone came the Present Zone, kicking off with a much-admired display of moquettes. Various seating fabrics had been chopped up to create a tree in full leaf, the centrepiece of a colourful seating area watched over by staff dripping with even more of the stuff.

Prize for the dullest stand, sorry, went to London Overground for their panels on sustainable stations. A close second was the contactless ticketing booth, where a handful of facts had been repackaged in a variety of formats, and staff attempted to engage the public by giving away free yo-yos.

More ambitious was Idiom Park, a tent attempting to resemble a tube station, with the aim of bringing TfL's latest design philosophy to life. Only a tiny fraction of this weighty document was printed out, but everybody loved the tube map of station design types, which can be found on page 199 of this 24MB download.

There was plenty for kids to do, including jumping on pads to make transport noises and playing with Brio. Adults got their fun by taking part in an exercise class on hire bikes, spinning their wheels to music, preceded by a promotional talk to a captive audience trapped in the saddle.

Amongst the next set of buses was a New Routemaster wrapped in the prize-winning design of a schoolchild from Hillingdon, where these buses never run. Alongside was a very similar looking bus made by a competitor, the Enviro400H City, easily mistaken but with opening windows and only one staircase.

Also present were a truck equipped with the latest cycle-friendly safety features, a separate cycle-friendly exhibit and a black cab or two. I was particularly excited to see a recreation of Bus Stop M on display, embodying the very finest design principles, although this may simply have been a local stop with no service while the road was blocked.

Slipping finally into the Future Zone, the Sensory Cinema was a showreel of three brief TfL animations to a slightly vibrating soundtrack. One featured potentially driverless trains, which'll require the introduction of platform-edge doors on the Piccadilly line, while another enthused about rolling stock interiors coming soon to Crossrail.

The future got fairly short shrift, it being hard to exhibit things nobody's designed yet, but talks were delivered on the half hour, and a pair of contractors showcased their work to potential employees and clients. And all this led up to Oxford Circus, where the daily grind of everyday transport was easily seen beyond a row of plastic hedges.

Overall #TbDFest wasn't quite as wow as the Year of the Bus event here in 2014, nor was it intended to be. But it was a well-curated reminder of the variety and excellence of London's transport design, and seemed to entertain as well as educate the crowds who'd flocked along to enjoy. [12 photos] [more] [more]

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