‘Metamorphosis’: a design vision for metro travel post-Covid

tangerine unveils a design concept for a new type of metro train that offers opportunities to increase capacity in the rail network and grow passenger numbers in a post Covid world, by improving confidence in the provision of hygienic and safe metro travel.

‘Metamorphosis’ has an adaptable carriage interior with sliding screens that can be deployed during pandemics to divide the space into “travel bubbles” and a range of hygienic travel solutions

‘Metamorphosis’ is a metro concept designed to help operators better plan for future pandemics by enabling them to readily adapt the train interior to minimise the risk of germ transmission during periods of local disruption created by novel viruses.

‘Metamorphosis’ has an adaptable carriage interior with slidable screens that can be deployed during pandemics to divide the space into smaller zones or “travel bubbles”.  Flexible seating angles bodies away from one another to increase privacy and minimise the potential for cross-contamination, as passengers choose to either perch or stand.  A HEPA filtered localised air filtration system provides a constant change of air, a touchless hand sanitation point in the vestibule aids cleanliness, while a QR code placed at strategic points in the carriage enables an effective Carriage Track and Trace system. A traffic light style illumination around the doors, supported by passenger information on screens and projected onto the platform, aid a safe, distanced boarding and alighting of the train.

Passengers are guided quickly and safely on/off the train by a traffic light system of lights around the train doors, Passenger Information System (PIS) screens, and on-platform projected messaging.

The concept balances customer safety and user experience with the commercial imperatives to limit disruption and keep rail services running during pandemics.  This ensures that operators remain profitable during times of both high and low demand on the rail network, helping to mitigate the need for fare rises, bailouts and Government subsidies.

tangerine, who is known around the world for designing game-changing products, services and experiences for leading companies including British Airways Heathrow Express and Toyota, has created ‘Metamorphosis’ as a vision for the future of metro travel within cities to support the growth of passenger rail services at times of turbulent change.

‘Metamorphosis’ rethinks the design of a metro train to optimise the layout of the interior to cope with the peaks and troughs of passenger demand created during pandemics. Adopting readily available technologies and materials, the design is optimised for high passenger occupancy during low health risk ‘normal times’ when workers need to use a fast, reliable, high capacity tube network to commute to work.  The train can then be rapidly adapted through a series of physical and digital changes during times of high health risk ‘pandemic times’ to introduce social distancing, behavioural prompts, and provide additional hygienic travel solutions.  Sliding division walls can be deployed during pandemics to segregate the carriage space into smaller zones or “travel bubbles”, which are supported by a QR code activated Carriage Track and Trace System that alerts passengers if they have shared the carriage zone with someone else who later becomes unwell.

‘Metamorphosis’ carriage layout showing sliding division panels stowed to give maximum carriage capacity for ‘normal’ times and deployed during pandemics to create smaller zones or “travel bubbles” A range of standing, perching and seating options are available.

A QR code enabled Carriage Track and Trace system, with a unique code for each carriage section, enables passengers to record their journey and be alerted if are at risk and need to self-isolate.

Martin Darbyshire, founder and CEO of tangerine says:
“‘Metamorphosis’ is an inspiring and achievable vision of a new type of adaptable metro train that suits a wider range of user, operational, and service requirements for times of high and low demand on passenger rail services. This design goes beyond quick fixes in response to Covid-19 that would be unsuitable once the risk of the virus subsides, to instead use the opportunity to propose a better metro train that can increase capacity as well as minimise the future risk of disruption due to new novel viruses.”

Matt Round, Chief Creative Officer at tangerine says:
“This latest work from the tangerine studio represents a pragmatic and inspiring vision for the future of inner-city passenger rail services. With the benefit of 30 years’ experience creating game changing solutions for mobility providers in aviation, rail and the automotive sectors, tangerine has balanced our commercial understanding of business imperatives with an acute understanding of user experience to design a visionary concept of how commuter trains could be rethought to better deal with the risks of future pandemics.”

Design features summary

Fixed aspects of the ‘Metamorphosis’ metro train interior include:

  • Centrally located seating and wider doors to better control the flow on and off the train and enable faster boarding and alighting.
  • Seating articulation is automated to flip up/flip down according to operational requirements so that space can be reconfigured for higher capacity standing travel during rush hour during ‘normal times’ and aid social distancing in ‘pandemic times’ by leaving a central seat locked upwards.
  • A light signalling system and digital screens by the doors informs passengers when to board and when to wait on the platform, aiding safety and improving social distancing.
  • Perch seating angles bodies away from one another and supports passengers’ bottoms and lower backs sufficiently so that they don’t need to touch shared handrails.
  • The combination of flip-down perch/sit seating, angled wall perches and standing spaces helps to orientate bodies away from one another, improving passengers’ space and privacy.
  • The air-conditioning integrates HEPA filters and circulates from outlets overhead to venting immediately below, thus creating a localised circular airflow around individual seats to reduce the cross-contamination of air.
  • A touchless hand sanitation point in the vestibule for hand cleaning on and off the metro.


Rapid transformation measures to improve safety and hygiene during pandemics include:

  • Centrally located sliding screens can be deployed to divide the carriage into smaller zones or “travel bubbles”.
  • The maximum number of passengers per carriage can be displayed on the outside of the train, with doors lit to control passenger flow.
  • Passenger Information Systems display behavioural messaging to encourage correct social distancing, hand sanitisation and the wearing of face masks.
  • A QR code enabled Carriage Track and Trace system, with a code unique to each carriage, enables passengers to scan their journey. Recording details of the user, timestamps and carriage location which can be correlated against other passengers so that they can be alerted if they have shared a carriage with someone who has later reported becoming unwell.


Find out about tangerine’s work in the rail sector for CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co., here