Western train makers fight back with hi-tech interiors

Thu Sep 25, 2014 11:35am EDT
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* InnoTrans Berlin trade fair features industry's innovations

* Alstom, Bombardier battle cheaper Chinese manufacturers

* Onboard connectivity, tintable windows to spruce up trains

By Natalie Huet

BERLIN, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Trains are likely to become more like long-haul planes, with customised carriages and tablets embedded into hi-tech seats, as Western manufacturers fight back against cheaper Chinese rivals and Europe's railways open up to greater competition.

Europe's rail passengers may feel their comfort has long been overlooked by an industry still largely in the hands of cash-strapped governments and struggling to compete with low-cost airlines as well as coaches and cars.

But that looks set to change, judging by exhibitors at this week's InnoTrans trade fair in Berlin, the world's biggest venue for rail equipment suppliers worldwide, where companies flaunted their latest innovations on a site as big as 28 soccer fields.

At the stand of France's Alstom, maker of the high-speed TGV, visitors could try out a prototype of new seats for long-distance trains, with headphones embedded in the headrest and a table converted into a multimedia tablet.

From there you could read the news, watch videos, check on your travel itinerary, order food, dim the lights and even convert the windows into a giant screen.   Continued...