Comfort, space, and seating inside the IEP Intercity Express Carriages
With the arrival of the IEP on UK rail tracks there will be plenty of focus on train and carriage configurations, routes, and ticket prices. But for many UK commuters, one of the main considerations in how well the new vehicles will be received is in how they’re designed internally. In other words, what’s in it for me from a comfort perspective.
Clearly travellers will be expecting high levels of comfort, with the carriages offering comfortable seating, adequate essential services such as rest rooms and buffet facilities, and plenty of storage space. In fact, some of the key requirements from the original tender for the IEP interior design were ” safety, accessibility, capacity and comfort of passengers”.
At time of writing, it remains to be seen how well these requirements are going to be met. Though we do have some detail from tenders and design specifications, along with visual indications both from images inside the first train unveiled in Japan, videos filmed after arrival in the UK, and from the mockup that’s been built by DCA.
So we know that the IEP’s passengers can expect features such as heating, good ventilation, and air conditioning. They’re all a given. But we’ll also be seeing focused attention on wheelchair access, wheelchair accessible toilets, CCTV, high quality Wi-Fi, and the ability to see reserved seats via LCD displays.
You’ll get some good views on the train interiors from 1 minute 10 seconds onwards in the video just above.
Observations From The IEP Mock Up
A company known as DCA Design – based in Warwick – have created the first mockup of the IEP in the UK. You’ll find a video of the mockup construction here. Essentially this gives us some feeling for what we can expect to see in a drivers cab and a first class and second class carriage, although probably with some modifications before the trains actually enter passenger service.
Various reports from visits to the mock up have been mostly favourable.
Inside the carriages there is a bright and obviously new looking feel. We shouldn’t be too concerned with colour schemes for now because they’ll most likely be changed to meet individual operator requirements, though features such as light wood panelling in some areas certainly add to the overall impression of space.
There is some indication of differing floor levels between the diesel powered vehicles and those running on electric power – remember the diesel power packs are situated under the trains which will contribute to height differences. Reports suggested the difference will not be an issue.
From a seating perspective, the seats themselves can be expected to be firm due to fire retardant requirements. For those of us riding first class, different seat types with contours built in to the backs are likely to offer a greater degree of comfort.
Layout of seating can be seen in some of the images below – 2 plus one formation with tables for some rows. Plenty of leg room available. Some work may need to be done to transform this into the best seating arrangement for passengers, particularly in the alignment of seating to windows. Overhead luggage space is available, as is ample space at the ends of the carriages for larger items.
LCD displays are used to indicate which seats are reserved and which are free to use, with a traffic light system showing either green (free), amber (reserved for part of a journey), or red (reserved).
Doors between carriages are sliding type.
High tech new style shutter windows are employed, similar to those seen on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It’s possible these could cause some friction between passengers who want shutters closed and those who don’t.
Restroom facilities were reported as excellent, though there is a risk of toilet doors being left open and presenting a less than perfect view on entering a carriage. Hitachi state that these will be among the biggest toilets found on any UK trains, with doorways reportedly 87.5cm wide.
The arrival of the IEP train has been a long time coming. The very first decision to replace the ailing Intercity 125 fleet was made as far back as 2005, when a plan was put in place to award the contract, procure the trains and have them in full service by the early part of 2015 on both the Great Western Main Line and the East Coast Main Line.
With delays of three years on the programme, it’s now going to be the 4th quarter of 2017 before we see the IEP in passenger service, and 2018 before all intended routes are covered.
But all the indications are that the wait will have been worth it. Passengers can expect faster trains, improved comfort and reliability, and most definitely increased capacity.
With a lot of money at stake – the deal with Agility Trains is worth £5.7 billion over the course of the contract – it’s imperative that the IEP Intercity Express project does actually end up with the promised passenger benefits.
GWR with their version known as the Intercity Express running on the GWML, and Virgin Trains with their Azuma on the ECML, are both heavily invested and look sure to be putting every effort into a successful service introduction.