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Franchises must put passenger comfort at the heart of rolling stock – Perry

Rail franchises will be required to modernise their rolling stock in order to improve passenger comfort, the DfT has said in its new rolling stock perspective.

The government will require bidders on new franchises such as West Midlands Rail to include improving rolling stock in their bid, and will pilot a scheme where new franchisees (East Coast, TPE and Northern) have to invest a portion of their profits in rolling stock innovation for the first three years.

The report also said it is not acceptable that the National Passenger Survey found that passenger satisfaction remains below 80%.

In her foreword to the strategy, rail minister Claire Perry said: “The future of the rail industry must be one in which it uses this era of opportunity to become ever more customer focused. Passengers want, and deserve, reliable, frequent and fast services in comfortable trains with modern features.

“Everyone who works on the railway, from frontline customer facing staff to train drivers, signallers, telecoms experts and others need to be given the skills to make new rolling stock and signalling equipment work for passengers as it is introduced.”

Recommendations for rolling stock include considering new solutions to reduce overcrowding, potentially including double deck trains and seat layouts that can be quickly altered.

The report also recommends improving passenger comfort by making ergonomic seating, wi-fi and mobile phone reception available as a matter of course.

It also says that in the future it will be “a matter of course” for trains to transfer between TOCs and routes. Measures to allow for this include widespread inclusion of common systems for coupling, train management and train control and a long-term approach to livery.

The report also says that trains should be designed to improve their environmental impact by reducing emissions, being more easily recycled at the end of their life, and ending toilet discharge onto tracks by January 2020.

It says that Network Rail must work more closely with train manufacturers in order to ensure that rolling stock is compatible with the railways.

The department recommend that TOCs work closer together to develop common ‘big ticket’ items for rolling stock, including standard train heights and widths, vehicle lengths and door positions, lighter trains and driver advisory systems.

The report also promises that the procurement strategy for HS2 trains, which will begin next year, will “set new standards in passenger experience”.

It confirms that the European Train Control System (ETCS) will be installed on all trains as part of the introduction of the Digital Railway.

(Image c. Alex Thorkildsen)

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Huguenot   18/05/2016 at 21:13

Well, they could start with the seats. Those on recently-introduced Class 387s are so hard, merely to save a penny or two or a few grammes' weight, compared with the 2+2 seating in, say, the Class 375 which is reasonably comfortable. Many suburban seats are too low, making for an uncomfortable posture for even a medium-height person. I wait to be amazed at the standard seats for Classes 700 and 800 -- but I'm not holding my breath.

Noam Bleicher   19/05/2016 at 12:16

She is right of course, but I don't see the DfT awarding franchises to companies who spend money on more spacious, comfortable seating rather than just increased premiums back to the Department. Many modern trains are hugely uncomfortable for long distance passengers, with high-density commuter seating designed to stuff as many seats in as possible, with no tables to work at and poor alignment with windows.

Manek Dubash   20/05/2016 at 12:25

Totally agree about the uncomfortable seats on the Class 378. And it seems from the mockups in photos in this month's Modern Railways that we're in for more of the same in future. Cram them in, sell it expensive, and who cares about passenger comfort when sales are going up up up seems to be the attitude. Meanwhile, the motoring option becomes more attractive by the week... And it shouldn't.

John Grant   20/05/2016 at 17:23

It's the same with GTR's "refurbishment" of the 365s: harder seats, fewer tables, carpets replaced with lino, and still no proper aircon. The 379s on the West Anglia line are much better, though -- except that last time I travelled that route they couldn't get the doors to work and we finished up on a very old class 317.

Chris@Chesterfield   20/05/2016 at 22:15

So on the brand-new IEPs being built to take over the scenic East Coast and Great Western routes to Cornwall, will the 'unpadded cell' seats alongside the door pockets, with absolutely no view, be quietly removed and replaced by luggage stacks? Or if sold at bargain price, will they come with a warning message "bring a good video, 4hrs journey with nothing to see but the seat-back in front?"

Joel   24/05/2016 at 11:45

For 'proper' seats have a look at SWT's class 159s and the refurbished 158s they use. That should be the standard for any ride of over 30 minutes. We have an ageing as well as a growing population, living longer and working longer, and (sadly) getting larger. We need wider, deeper seats with sufficient legroom, otherwise trains in Britain risk being a new cause of DVT, previously confined to long-haul flying. This of course costs money, lots of it, and reduces carriage capacity. But if the Minister wants 'comfort', these are the minima; if the Minister wants profitable railways, these are what she can't have. Catch 22, 21st century style...

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