- Survey found flexible seating layouts are the most impactful innovation for train operators
• There is a lack of consensus on how to best improve sustainability of rail interiors
• Industry leaders expect major interior improvements on accessibility to be rolled out in the next five years
BERLIN: Flexible seating layouts that enable train operators to tailor interiors to passenger numbers and routes will have the biggest positive impact on the onboard experience, according to the second Future of Rail Interiors Survey.
As part of the RedCabin Railway Interior Innovation Summit 2022, leaders from Europe’s leading train operators, suppliers, and design houses shared their thoughts on the major issues facing the industry and ways to effectively reimagine the next generation of rolling stock interiors.
30 percent of respondents declared multi-purpose, adaptable seating as the most transformative innovation, followed by:
• Dedicated interior modules for work, socialising, and relaxation (18 percent)
• Enhanced onboard internet connectivity and power options (16 percent)
• Increased use of sustainable materials across the interior (12 percent)
• Privacy dividers or doors fitted on seats/seat shrouds (11 percent)
• New seat designs specifically for passengers with reduced mobility (7 percent)
• Greater use of AR/VR and digital technologies (6 percent)
Passenger seating was a big focus of discussion at the summit, with almost two thirds of respondents (58 percent) marking it as the area requiring the most innovation. This is more than double the amount of people who thought the focus should be on revamped communal spaces and lavatories (19 percent), and five times more than onboard connectivity (11 percent).
Monica Wick, CEO and founder of RedCabin, comments: “The survey demonstrates the growing appetite across the European market for greater flexibility and choice when it comes to rail interiors, for both operators and passengers. Cutting-edge interiors that offer these benefits, like the Ideas Train (Ideenzug) from Deutsche Bahn, will be highly sought after as we move into a new era of rail travel.”
A new track for accessibility
The survey also explored changing attitudes to accessibility onboard, with 81 percent of respondents saying that accessibility on both short and long-haul trains will improve in the next two to five years as new interior products are rolled out on networks around the world.
When asked what interior innovation would result in the most improved experience for passengers with reduced mobility, wider entrance access and aisles (46 percent) came out on top, followed by more integrated disabled seating/seating areas (38 percent). Other elements highlighted include revamped bathrooms with wider doors and increased handrail support (5 percent), as well as greater use of AI and display technologies to enhance audio and visual announcements (8 percent).
“It is positive to see the global rail industry placing a greater focus on new interiors to enhance accessibility onboard. The important thing for the future is to ensure disabled passengers continue to have their voice heard and are a key part of the innovation process,” says Wick.
A greener ride
One of the biggest challenges facing many operators is how to make interiors more sustainable. While 78 percent of respondents believe that sustainability will improve significantly by 2027, the survey showcased a lack of consensus on what area of innovation would enhance sustainability onboard the most:
• 35 percent believe the focus should be on increased use of recycled materials and end-of-life recycling
• 23 percent said greater use of lightweight materials
• 21 percent stated an increased use of natural materials and fibres in the interior design
Increased cross-industry collaboration on ‘green’ partnerships (13 percent) and using technology to track and measure the environmental impact of interior parts across their lifecycle (7 percent) were also highlighted as effective ways to enhance sustainability.
Collaborating on challenges
Despite more than two thirds (68 percent) of industry leaders stating interiors are the most important aspect of the passenger experience, there are several significant challenges facing the industry.
The majority of those surveyed (55 percent) believe the biggest barriers to innovation are currently budget restraints post-pandemic and complex/restrictive regulations, followed by an over-reliance on existing interior layouts and designs (14.5 percent) and a lack of collaboration by decision makers across the industry (13 percent).
“The impact of the pandemic is still being felt in many areas and drops in passenger numbers can lead to falling revenue and a lack of investment in new ideas. By coming together to share challenges and expertise, the rail industry can work collaboratively to make the next generation of interiors more accessible, sustainable, and affordable – delivering innovation to help more passengers fall back in love with rail travel.”