tisdag 29 januari 2008

Railway vehicle layouts

The Danish IC3 trains (above) are amongst the most comfortable in Europe, though for how much longer? There is plenty of room and there ample space for luggage between the seat backs, so you can keep an eye on it. You can see out of the train from wherever you sit. This is an ideal arrangement and nowadays it is unusual.

But a member of DSB staff told me that the seating in the trains will be changed when they are refurbished with unidirectional (airline-style) seating instead of the traditional arrangement in facing bays. Airline seats are for aircraft, where the luggage is carried in a separate hold. Where they are fitted in trains, it is almost invariably unsatisfactory.

Look at the result where this has been done in Britain. The obvious effect is that the luggage space between seat backs is lost. This means that luggage shelves have to be provided, which loses space. Worse still, people cannot keep their luggage near by and there have been many instances of theft, including one case when a criminal stole a case which turned out to have an IRA bomb in it! Particularly bad examples are First Great Western's latest refurbishment of their HST fleet, the Swedish X2000 and the Thalys. In the X2000, luggage piles up in a heap in the middle of the gangway, and in the Thalys, I have seen it having to be taken off the train altogether just so that people can get on and off.

A blocked doorway on a refurbished HST

The second disadvantage of airline seating is that windows and seats are not aligned and you can book a window seat and find it has no window at all but just a view of a piece of plastic. This is the case even with trains on the scenic Oslo to Bergen route.

Obstructed outlook on a Virgin Pendolino

The third disadvantage is that passengers in groups cannot sit together; even where there are just two people, they may prefer to face each other, especially when they are older and need to see the person they are talking with.

The fourth disadvantage is weight. Airline type seats are unsupported at the rear and have to be substantial, not just for strength but to prevent resonant vibration. Back-to-back seats can be designed as a single structure, complete with luggage space beneath.

Good luggage space on an Alstom Adelante

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