China’s Winter Olympics train designed to compete with air travel

Designed by Tangerine, the train transports media personnel and athletes to and from the Games center.

Tangerine has designed the official Winter Olympics train for this year’s event to be held in Beijing, China.

The Winter Olympics train is a necessary, but less visible, part of the action this year. Designed by the London-based studio, the high-speed train was specially developed to help transport athletes, media and fans from Beijing to Zhangjiakou Ski Center.

“A warm and festive color palette”

According to Weiwei He, director of Tangerine China, the train is the result of more than five years of work between the studio and its client CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co.

Predictably, the Winter Olympics inspired much of the design work for the train’s interiors, alongside traditional Chinese heritage. He says a “winter sport look” has been adopted throughout, thanks to the introduction of patterns like snowflakes, icicles and dynamic shapes meant to resemble snow sculptures.

Since the date of the Games also coincides with the Chinese New Year, she says China’s “lucky color red” was used as the base of the color scheme, alongside the rich golds of champagne. The end result is “a warm, festive color palette that represents happiness and good fortune,” he says.

“We wanted it to be a relaxed and informal space”

He says two of the train’s most special areas are the restaurant and the VIP carriages – both designed to ensure passengers always feel like they’re in the thick of the action when traveling between Beijing and Zhangjiakou.

The dining area, which also houses the media center, features a sculpted bar with large TV screens on which to watch sporting events and sofa-like lounge seating for added comfort. “We wanted it to be a relaxed, informal space for journalists to work in while traveling to and from the Olympics,” he said.

Meanwhile, VIP cars are influenced by premium airline seats. A staggered layout maximizes space while providing privacy for travelers, who can also relax in extended beds. The area’s visual language was inspired by the Great Hall of China, which Tangerine’s designers visited as part of their cultural immersion stage of the project.

“High-speed rail can provide cheaper, greener and more convenient travel”

The visual references to the aviation industry are very deliberate, he says. “One of China Rail’s ambitions was to compete with regional airlines to provide a premium travel experience,” she says.

“The price is comparatively cheaper than flying in business class and offers a better experience than on narrow-body airlines – more space, better seat comfort, more storage space and a quieter environment and more private,” she says. “Compared to a two- or three-hour regional flight, high-speed rail can provide cheaper, greener and more convenient travel in about the same time.”

There are several interventions to boost the luxury of the service. Wireless charging, personal screens and secure seat-side luggage stations are all present.

Some elements of these airline-inspired seating options initially posed a problem for the Tangerine team, he says. The most important being the cultural expectation in China that travel should be face to face. “So even Economy seats have to rotate 180 degrees at the end of the line in preparation for the return trip,” He says.

To solve this problem, all seats are equipped with a rotation mechanism, which was developed by designers working in a pop-up studio alongside CRRC engineers. “It was a great way to learn about China for our Western designers,” she says.

“An important part of the legacy of the Beijing Winter Games”

While the train will play an important role during the Games, its use will continue long after the Closing Ceremonies. As he says, after the Winter Olympics, it will be rotated regularly by China Rail.

This was always the intent of the train, so the design had to reflect this from the start. He says the Tangerine team worked closely with CRRC Changchun engineers to develop a design solution that could be “precision manufactured” to deliver that.

As a result, all seats can be easily removed, replaced and reconfigured to ensure train adaptability. Additionally, media seating in the dining car will be replaced with high-density second-class seating. VIP transport will continue to operate on some services as a standard offer for passengers.

“The hope is that this train will be an important part of the legacy of the Beijing Winter Games,” she said.


The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are well underway, having officially kicked off on February 4. We have already looked at the design of the Beijing 2022 games and reviewed the evolution of the design of the Winter Olympics.

What do you think of the inside of the train? Let us know in the comments below…

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