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InnoTrans 2016 – Supplying the Passenger Experience

This will be the second article I’ve written about last week’s InnoTrans 2016 expo in Berlin. The other one, written for The Rail Innovation Group, focussed on how innovative the products and services on offer were but there were some points on Passenger Experience that I wanted to review too.

Information Provision

I saw a couple of examples of providing information to passengers in a thoughtful way, rather than a last minute screen bolted to the wall. Firstly, a tram destined for Hannover where passenger information had been integrated seamlessly into the door arch. Another example was on the new South West Trains stock for London commuter routes which will show crowding on each carriage in an easy to interpret, visual way. Young Rail Professional’s Julianna Moats certainly seemed happy with this development! Though I remain unconvinced as to whether passengers would actually be able to use this space due to a lack of grab rails.

On Board Journey Experience

Can you actually work productively on a train? Most of the time, no. People say that we don’t need HS2 in the UK as train time is now productive time, but one of the main things I find myself commenting on in my network visit articles is whether it’s possible to actually work on a train, as most train company advertising would make out. Usually this is not possible due to lack of space, poorly designed seat back tray tables, lack of power sockets, unreliable Wi-Fi and, well, not having a seat.

There seemed to be a worrying lack of suitable work space, especially in Standard Class, on the trains on show – with tiny seat back tray tables or booths without tables at all. A common response I encountered amongst rail industry professionals was that a passenger should upgrade to First if they want to work but that isn’t really an argument. Most companies don’t allow for First Class travel; and what about students; and what about passengers who think they’ve paid quite enough for their ticket already? The bottom line is that people want to use their laptops on the train, be it for work or for leisure. This, along with reliable power sources and (FREE) fast Wi-Fi are a must for current and future rail users who are no longer traveling with steamer trunks and a good, long novel. Let’s provide the environment that passengers want!

Though it is not high-budget or glamorous, this Polish example actually provides somewhere to work, and to put your coffee – all in Standard!

Fold down table with coffee shelf on Polish PKP Intercity

I had to mention these two examples of metro-style trains: the one from Saudi Arabia with the locked door between male and female sections, apparently very comfortable for looking at your phone; and the ‘solution’ of providing more metro seating by getting someone to perch on your knee.

Toilets got some action too, with this interesting makeover. At least it’s bright and welcoming.

Abstract Toilet Decoration

Future Concepts

In terms of forward thinking? The aeroliner is out there, with its mini double-deck concept for Britain. It obviously provides more on board seating (30% increase) but you wouldn’t want to stand for the journey.

Aeroliner3000 Upper Deck

Upstairs, the aeroliner feels more like a lounge with the coffee table and panoramic windows. I’m not sure that a passenger would be able to squeeze around a table if they did put them in.

Elsewhere, the same Polish train I mentioned above has considered passenger requirements for the future, creating a table top touch-screen display for passengers, along with wireless charging points. Perhaps passengers will be able to link it to their devices in future – though it would make it difficult to work on a private document. Despite this advance, the booth still isn’t aligned with the windows!

Liam Henderson

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