"Premium economy seats" for new high-speed trains

19 Jun 2009 by Mark Caswell

The new 140mph commuter service on the HS1 line between London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet and Ashford in Kent will be fitted with premium economy seats.

The service on HS1 (the high-speed line which runs for 68 miles between St Pancras and the Channel Tunnel) will be fitted with premium economy seats, says Alistair Dormer, general manager of Hitachi Rail Group which made the carriages.

“We did a lot of work with UK interior designers and did a lot of research with passenger groups mostly headed up by the operator Southeastern,” says Dormer.

“We then built a full size mock-up of a passenger coach and cab and ordered three or four different designs of seats from different suppliers, and we used them in our office for six months. If you are sat in them all day you know what’s comfortable and what works.

“Because it’s only 37 minutes from Ashford to St Pancras, and the longest journey is an hour, the view was that premium economy was the target, says Dormer.

The new carriages are just one class, with a total of 338 seats in each train in a 2-2 configuration, with power sockets situated between each pair of seats. The maximum capacity for each train is 508 including those standing, although there are no grabrails running down the centre of the coaches.

“There are a full twelve coaches, and a high frequency of service, hopefully,” says Dormer. “If they get too full, we’d like to think there’d be more trains.”

Dormer also commented that the trains have been designed to the latest European high-speed standards which are incredibly demanding in terms of structural safety.

“The standard is even higher than the standards applying to the Pendolino trains, which the accident in the Lake District proved were effective since the train was completely intact."

Commercial director Vince Lucas said that the new service would appeal particularly to those working north of Oxford St or Holborn and commuters from Kent to Canary Wharf.

“Really we don’t want lots of people to move off our existing services – we want to keep those full and create new business from people moving in, “ Lucas said.

“If you come in along the M2 corridor, there’s still a higher proportion of people commuting by car and coach. And many of them have higher average incomes than the train travellers, but they’ve got better access into Docklands by road. The opening of these new services gives us a chance to attract those customers. So when you see the marketing campaigns from the July 6 you’ll see big billboards as you come up to the Blackwall Tunnel.”

Lucas admitted that it needed Stratford Station to complete its connection to the Docklands to allow full access, which will happen by mid-2010.

 “We want to convert and get more people travelling by train – otherwise we’ve just moved the same people for a vastly higher cost.” It’s only successful if you convert extra people.”

The new service starts its “preview” runs on June 29 before full service commences on December 13.  To see an interactive journey map, click here.

For more information visit

Report by Tom Otley

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