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Refurbishment drives demand for seats

01 Jul 2003

CARRIAGE body shells can outlive their interior furnishings by many years, making refurbishment the key to providing a quality travelling environment throughout the life of the vehicle. Seating is one of the most noticeable interfaces between passengers and trains, and the selection of appropriate designs and materials is critical.

Eurostar's Artistic Director Philippe Starck is aiming to provide a 'stylish and timeless' experience for cross-Channel passengers as part of the 'Welcome to the new Eurostar' scheme, a £35m revitalisation of the trains and stations on the nine-year-old international service.

A mock-up of the proposed Eurostar interiors was unveiled at the Train Capitale exhibition in Paris on May 27 (p426). Starck has ambitious plans for the premium first carriage provided on London - Paris trains, which will provide superior accommodation to that available on private aircraft. The premium carriages will feature 14 egg-shaped brown leather armchairs, similar to the seats in Eurostar's first class station lounges. There will be seven seats on each side of the carriage, and they can be rotated to face towards each other or towards the window. Curtains will allow groups of four or six seats to be partitioned from the rest of the carriage.

For those not wishing to spend £500 for a return trip, first and standard class coaches will have seats with new profiles and cushions, and all classes of seat will be fitted with new headrests when the refurbished trains start to enter service in 2004. In the light of practical experience gained since the Tunnel opened, two seats per carriage will be removed from each standard class vehicle to create more luggage space.

The train interiors will have 'a warm stylish atmosphere' featuring neutral colours, and Eurostar hopes the current refurbishment will produce 'timeless' designs lasting seven to 10 years.

SNCF will refurbish much of its fleet of TGV sets between 2005 and 2008. Before the design was finalised, three different proposals were displayed to the public, and comments invited. Produced by Compin, MBD Design and Christian Lacroix, the winning design features grey seating in first class, interspersed with apple green seats to produce what is described as a 'twin colour fusion of grey flannel and felt'. The seats are intended to give passengers a sense of having their own space, an 'envelope in which they can find refuge'. Each pair of seats has shared centre posts with individual lights and electrical sockets.

Most seats in standard class will be plum coloured, with some randomly-distributed examples in vermilion, to give an atmosphere described by Christian Lacroix as 'more fun, more dynamic'. An extra 70mm of legroom will be provided, and headrests are to be individually adjustable.

Leather is a widely used material for durable train seating, and Muirhead has developed Firewall 2 leather specifically for public transport use. Manufactured in Glasgow, the firm's leather has been supplied for use on trains in Denmark.

Materials used in public transport vehicles must meet high safety standards, in particular fire resistance. The most recent seats from Swedish supplier Pascal use the firm's patented DUX steel springs mounted in flame-retardant non-woven fabrics. Designed with fire safety in mind, the fabrics offer low calorific value and low toxicity. Self-contained spring units consist of multiple rows of springs 53mm high, and are designed to replace existing cushions, giving a lower profile and compliance with modern fire standards.

For local and regional trains it is important to produce a seat which is both robust and appealing, but on trains which will provide longer-distance services ergonomics becomes a more critical factor.

Transform Rail Interiors is based in Australia, and supplies a full range of components including floor and wall panels. As well as fixed designs for inter-city trains, the company's seating options include fixed and flip-up models for suburban trains. Grupo Antolin manufactures a range of lightweight seats for regional and inter-city trains.

Slovak firm FKS Zilina is supplying seats to ZOS Zvolen for the modernisation of 15 Class 810 single-car railbuses, which are being rebuilt into Class 812.

Grammer offers a range of seats for all types of use. The adjustable ICE3/ICT seat is intended for installation on high speed trainsets, and features leather upholstery and an option for integrated entertainment modules. R2000 is a simpler, functional design for long-distance services, and incorporates an integrated fold-down tray. The D2000 and Ale models are intended for regional use, and the Europe is aimed at the urban and local market, being constructed to minimise life-cycle costs and for rapid replacement if it is vandalised. The D2001 offers extra-thick cushions and the C2000 is available in single, double or triple configurations, as well as a folding version.

The first class area of Shanghai's Transrapid maglev is fitted with Grammer seats. The crew should not be forgotten, and a driver's seat with automatically-adjusting compressed air suspension is available from the German firm.