AUSTRIA: Austrian passengers have been invited to test possible new seats for regional and local trainsets, as part of a €50m programme to refurbish 250 Talent and Desiro multiple-units used by around half a million passengers each day.

In 2011 ÖBB undertook an initial survey to identify passengers’ main criteria for comfortable seats. This was followed by trials in December 2012, when a focus group was invited to choose between seats from four different manufacturers for use in a so-called ‘comfort zone’. The adjustable seats, which offer comfortable padding, a headrest, folding table and a footrest, plus additional legroom, are being installed in around 10 sets a month, meaning that all Talent and Desiro units should be equipped with a comfort zone by early 2016.

ÖBB has now decided to extend the programme to the remaining seats in each unit, which are to be replaced by 2018. A Talent EMU fitted with four seat variants began running in Ober­österreich on November 20, so that passengers can sample and rate the different seat cushion and backrest designs; the test train will later be deployed on services around Salzburg.

ÖBB Personenverkehr’s Regional Manager Paul Sonnleitner said ‘our customers should feel comfortable in our local trains, which is why we want to improve the seating comfort as part of our quality offensive. It is important that our passengers can influence the decision about new seats.’