New trains, space to breathe?

06 August 2012

The announcement about the new intercity train contract being signed is, of course, good news. Longer trains, more seats, faster and hopefully more reliability all matches what passengers want to see. However, the debate now shifts to what the insides will look and feel like. The Government has said it wants to get out of designing train interiors. However, the press release says “…increased carry-on luggage space, electronic seat reservations and no compromise on leg room,” which sounds like some thinking has been done. It has been left to the successful franchise bidders to specify the detail.

It is vital that passenger views are taken account of in this process. It is not our job to design trains, but what we have done, in our 2009 report Designing the Future – Passengers’ preference for the new national intercity rolling stock from 2012 (you can find it on our website), looked at current train designs to see what passengers (including those with disabilities) think with a view to spotting the good and not so good. Good things abound – the Meridian train run by East Midlands trains come out well, Virgin’s Pendolino’s less so.

We all have our favourites – I really like the South West Trains 444s (the white ones). I really dislike going on the refurbished First Great Western high-speed trains – few tables, very high seat backs and deathly lighting. However, the important thing is that the passenger voice is heard – yes, leave it to the private sector, but these trains will outlive the franchises they are currently being bought for.

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