INTRO: Quality improvements by rival modes are leading to growing demand from passenger train operators for higher standards of comfort. Marrying this pressure with the need to keep down vehicle weight is spurring innovation among seat manufacturers and component suppliers

GREATER COMFORT, more space for passengers, lighter weight and lower cost are the conflicting demands faced by seat manufacturers. As living standards rise, passengers on inter-city and increasingly on short-distance trains now expect more sophistication. Not many trains are likely to include the range of sofas, perch stools and other unusual seating found in the experimental Lirex train in Germany, but innovative designs that attract more passengers are certainly in demand.

Voyager trains for Virgin CrossCountry services in Britain have seats from Antolin Loire of France, and passengers have a socket for audio entertainment with 10 channels at each seat. There is also one socket for each pair of seats where passengers can plug in mobile phones or laptop computers. Similar facilities are provided in the Pendolino Britannico trains for Virgin’s West Coast route.

Grammer of Germany has developed a range of seats for German Railway’s ICE3 high-speed trainsets, including a built-in child seat. Over 80000 type C2000 seats have been supplied to DB, and the company is now developing a D2000 version made from aluminium profiles, and an E2000 upholstered version. There are options for headrests and a reclining version. Grammer is developing seats for the Siemens Desiro UK fleet - 21 four-car units for First Great Eastern and a further 25 sets ordered speculatively by Angel Trains.

Italian manufacturer Clerprem is supplying seats for the FS/FNM TAF double-deck EMUs being built by AnsaldoBreda. These have a 6 kg cast aluminium frame, keeping the weight per seat to 15 kg - an important consideration on high-capacity double-deck units. The firm is also supplying seats for German Railway’s Bombardier-built double-deck push-pull sets, and is developing a prototype for the US market. Clerprem has developed a cantilevered seat for the latest builds of Belgian light rail cars, and is working on an aluminium-framed derivative.

Vogel has recently unveiled the Series 500 version of its Pino design for trams, which was to be available from January; it is bidding Pino 100 seats (with no upholstery) for the K