Train Seats a New Approach to Comfort

Our research has led to the first comfort rating scale for train seats.

Train seat comfort is one of the factors contributing to overall passenger satisfaction, but we do not have robust and agreed parameters to specify and assess passenger seat comfort for new and refurbished trains.

This means we could risk overlooking the customer experience and worsening the seat comfort satisfaction rate which was at 66% in the 2017 National Rail Passenger Survey run by Transport Focus.

The rail industry asked our R&D team at RSSB to look into this further, and commission new research to answer two questions: how can comfort be reliably measured and managed, and how can that information be fed into the specifications for rolling stock interiors?

The project was sponsored by one of our key cross-industry groups, the Vehicle-Vehicle Systems Interface Committee (V-V SIC) and includes Angel Trains, Bombardier Transportation, Network Rail, Serco, University of Huddersfield, Rail Delivery Group and RSSB itself.

That work has now concluded and I’m proud to say that this has led to the first comfort rating scale for train seats.


Thanks to research, we now have:

  • A set of minimum seat comfort requirements that accommodate the 5th to 95th percentile of adult population
  • A robust seat comfort scoring system that provides different target scores for different journey categories and allows the most comfortable seat to be identified and selected
  • A seat attractiveness survey that asks passengers for final feedback on seat comfort preference
  • A robust, repeatable test methodology for the seat’s dimensions and seat pad hardness.

The work also kills off the myth that comfort can only be an after-thought after designing for crashworthiness, safety and security. Comfort can now be thought of as a fundamental requirement, reliably quantified for the first time in rail, and not a nice-to-have addition, or something that has to be sacrificed in the name of safety or security.

Putting the research into practice

The research represents a golden opportunity to anyone about to embark on specifying new train fleets, or interior overhaul of existing fleets.  They can have a seat comfort score in the specification.  And they can require suppliers to use the methodology to demonstrate this is achieved.

Operators can also apply the research to existing fleets to provide a baseline score. This can inform the way in which future fleets are specified by enabling good existing comfort scores to be preserved, or new, better comfort scores to be specified.

The new comfort rating scale and minimum requirements will be included in the next update of the Key Train Requirements document.  This helps rolling stock procurers, manufacturers and system suppliers to apply research and good practice in train design which are not already covered in standards.

First Rail has already started using part of the research to inform design requirements for new rolling stock.  In the past, the absence of a quantified benchmark made assessment and comparison very difficult. By using the method for dimensional and angle-based seat features, First Rail has what it feels is a more useful appraisal. 

Accessing the comfort rating scale and research findings

Download all the research findings and details from SPARK.

Technical support

If you’re involved in specifying seats for new or existing rolling stock, and would like to know more about how to use the new comfort rating scale and minimum requirements, please get in touch with us – we want to help.

Log in or register to keep reading
Register for free individual access
  • Unlock research, articles and more
  • Get updates on RSSB’s activities





Need some help?
To talk to us about accessing RSSB content or corporate membership:
Cookies help us improve your website experience.
By using our website, you agree to our use of cookies.