Rolling stock


Seat design needs more scientific approach to ensure comfort, says industry

There should be more research into the design of train seats in order to provide a more comfortable and safer experience for passengers, the RSSB has argued.

According to the organisation, this would mean a more scientific approach to measuring and specifying comfort.

New research aims to develop a more sophisticated “human factors” approach to understanding comfort, considering the shape of the seat, cushioning, choice of material, lumbar support, vibration, legroom and journey length, amongst other aspects.

Train operating companies, owning groups, rolling stock owning companies, suppliers and seat design manufacturers have reportedly expressed a “real desire to move forward” in this area, and have given their backing for work to start.

It is hoped that a seat specification will be established with a set of minimum requirements, allowing comfort to be considered as an “essential feature,” alongside other considerations such as fire safety and “crashworthiness.”

RSSB says that this could help organisations involved in rolling stock procurement, such as ROSCOs and the DfT.

Jordan Smith, RSSB’s senior human factor specialist, explained: “There simply aren’t any reliable industry-approved measures to quantify passenger train seat comfort – they don’t exist.

“The rail industry wants us to challenge that, by exploring the potential of a new specification which takes full account of the complexity of the human factors involved, and allows owners, suppliers and government procurement teams to efficiently specify and deliver seating in line with passenger comfort.”

Despite coming in the midst of complaints about the seats on GTR’s brand-new Class 700 fleet, which have been likened to “concrete” by some commuters, the RSSB has claimed that the research is not directly related to the operator’s stock. Instead, it argued the industry “had already recognised that seat comfort was an issue that could be better informed by new research.”

This research project comes as part of the RSSB’s R&D programme, which is supported by its members and funded by the DfT.

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an RTM columnist? If so, click here


John Gilbert   22/02/2018 at 16:14

And about time too! The design of seats has become steadily worse and worse and is quite unacceptable. But why was this allowed to happen in the first place? It is not rocket science to design a seat that is comfortable; all that is needed is the will, which clearly did not exist! One must ask why?

Paul   22/02/2018 at 18:18

Absolutely agree with John Gilbert. The arrogant deterioration of seat design has been a factor arising from the constant will of the Dft and TOC's to reduce train weight and more importantly seating space in favour of standing. Time after time new trains have appeared with worse seats than the previous build. Contrary to the opinion of a certain person on here, seat comfort is a major factor for passengers, especially considering what many pay for the joy of sitting on what is commonly termed now as an ironing board. Even the BBC have picked up on this now with items on Local News in many Regions highlighting the concerns. Is it too much to ask for an element of thoughtfulness from these "experts" rather than selfishness (and bombastic arrogance)?

Andrew Gwilt   22/02/2018 at 23:33

With the Class 230’s as some are to be transferred from Vivarail Long Marston to West Midlands Railway. Will it have 2 single doors that will be functional and or will all 4 single doors that are to be functional when passengers press the button and the doors open. Or will the doors automatically open by the driver controlling the doors when passengers board and alight the train just like it operated on the District Line before being replaced by the S7 Stocks. Plus West Midlands Railway will replace the seat covers with their own purple colours that will match the livery from inside and out. With the West Midlands Railway brand.

Andrew Gwilt   22/02/2018 at 23:34

Sorry I meant London Northwestern Railway.

Richard   23/02/2018 at 01:07

Andrew, what the hell does all that have to do with seat comfort (the subject of the Article in case you missed it)??

Andrew JG   23/02/2018 at 01:42

Ok I have misread the article Richard. 🙄

Pete   23/02/2018 at 08:02

The problem isn’t that the seats are thin, it’s that they’re cheap. The airline industry has proven that you can have seats that are thin and lightweight but also comfortable.

J, Leicester   23/02/2018 at 11:08

Add more padding. It's not hard... unlike the 700 and 80X seats!

Will Mitchell   23/02/2018 at 13:02

The seat comfort issue is important but is part of a wider degradation in standards as regards onboard facilities and the passenger experience. It’s embarrassing that the rail industry has allowed itself to be overtaken by air and even road (coach) travel in this regard. The daily experience of taking a modern train is one of hard seats, too many of which are airline style and often not lined-up with windows; incessant and mostly superflous passenger announcements; LED strip lighting fit for a Russian labour camp; not to mention the short sighted salami slicing of catering facilities. We should be looking to make trains more comfortable and more impressive but instead we take a complacent, lowest common denominator approach and it is going to come back to haunt us.

PP   23/02/2018 at 14:35

Will - I'd disagree with quite a lot of your comments there. Trains are changing because people's needs and desires are changing. While I agree that a comfortable seat is essential, I personally think it's important to have a number of airline seats available - when I'm travelling alone, I don't particularly want to sit opposite a stranger for several hours. Lighting on most modern trains seems good to me, better than it has been in the past. As for catering - gone are the days when it was widely assumed you'd die if you didn't eat a big plate of meat and two veg every few hours. People want different things, and the demand for catering on most services has dropped quite sharply, due to the rise in places to buy food on stations.

Nickk   23/02/2018 at 16:53

It annoys me to see people putting their filthy shoes onto seats - it didn't take long for the S-stock to show edge wear (not the Northern line terminus!). There should be more OBS and inspectors heavily fining these unsociables. Whether the new seat design of minimal comfort is a deterrent, I've yet to notice. At least Aircraft style format doesn't suffer this problem.

Boris   23/02/2018 at 18:06

You didn't misread Andrew you haven't even read the title let alone the article.

Andrew Gwilt   23/02/2018 at 23:08

Boris. I don’t need your input rubbish.

Bombardier Tilt   23/02/2018 at 23:34

The only rubbish is from you Andrew, as always! Nothing changes when you're spouting your continuous drivel.

James Plama   24/02/2018 at 09:30

For pitied sake!! As an academic, rail professional and enthusiast, scientific analysis of seating is not required. There needs to be a balance between reasonable cost and comfort and allocation of space for standing, seating and luggage. Simple. And no. Many people won't be able to sit on commuter services, so more space is required for standees. In addition, having recently travelled in Europe, there seats aren't much better!

Andrew Gwilt   25/02/2018 at 15:27

@Bombardier Tilt. Up yours. 😡

Boris   27/02/2018 at 19:12

RTM. How comes you seemingly do not take action against swearing and general uncouthness on your website.

Add your comment


rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

Five injured in Tube explosion

20/06/2018Five injured in Tube explosion

Five people have been injured in an explosion at a north London Underground station. A Metropolitan Police spokesperson confirmed that police we... more >
Strike news: guards row brings fresh strikes to Northern, South Western called off

19/06/2018Strike news: guards row brings fresh strikes to Northern, South Western called off

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union have walked out in a fresh dispute between the union and Northern Rail over a long-runnin... more >
TOC bosses appear before MPs, blame chaos on infrastructure failures

19/06/2018TOC bosses appear before MPs, blame chaos on infrastructure failures

Bosses from Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Northern Rail cited failures in infrastructure being completed in time and last-minute change... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Ye... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

How biometrics can help improve health and safety measures on railway construction projects

20/03/2018How biometrics can help improve health and safety measures on railway construction projects

ADVERTISEMENT FEATURE Biometric identity, time and attendance specialists Donseed looks at how biometric technology is already starting to enhance health and safety measures on railway construction projects. Advances in technology are starting to transform the way in which the rail network in the UK is managed, operated and maintained.... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


Apprenticeship levy: the latest picture

05/06/2018Apprenticeship levy: the latest picture

Mark Holmes, head of membership and development at NSAR, describes the current resources available to the rail industry to ensure companies of al... more >
Moving in the right direction

05/06/2018Moving in the right direction

Alex Cropper, head of projects group at Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), reports on the exciting progress so far in building the Trafford... more >
Overcoming leaves on the line

05/06/2018Overcoming leaves on the line

Paul Gray, professional lead of engineering R&D at the RSSB, explains how latest research proves using double variable rate sanders on trains... more >
Rail: A woman’s world

18/05/2018Rail: A woman’s world

RTM’s Sacha Rowlands reports from a panel debate where six of the industry’s leading figures convened to discuss the fundamental issu... more >

rail industry focus

View all News


Transforming travel in the north west

06/02/2018Transforming travel in the north west

RTM’s Josh Mines talks to Robin Davis, head of new trains at TransPennine Express (TPE), about the huge rolling stock change journey the co... more >