Valuing Different Seating Layouts for Rolling Stock on Commuter Routes

Valuing Different Seating Layouts for Rolling Stock on Commuter Routes


Paul Murphy, AECOM, Prof Mark Wardman, Institute For Transport Studies University Of Leeds, Tony Magee, ATOC


This paper outlines the results of a study for ATOC (PDFC) to value different seating layouts on commuter routes involving focus groups, an on train SP survey and an innovative RP analysis of ontrain CCTV footage.The results may be used to update PDFH.


As the demand for rail travel has increased, pressure on available capacity and certain routes has increased especially during peak travel times. Rolling stock design involves a trade off between providing sufficient capacity and levels of comfort associated with passengers seating or standing. As capacity has become more constrained, there has been a movement towards designing rolling stock with high seating densities using 3+2 seating. This can be controversial particularly when narrow seats have been used and there has been anecdotal evidence that people would rather stand than sit in cramped seating conditions.

Given this background ATOC's Passenger Demand Forecasting Council (PDFC) commissioned AECOM and Institute for Transport Studies Leeds to carry out research into how different seating types are valued on a number of commuter routes.

The research explored the willingness of passengers to stand rather than sit in uncomfortable conditions, including the impact of cramped 3+2 seating layouts with more seats compared with more spacious layouts with fewer seats and more standing. More spacious layouts include 2+2 seating, longitudinal seating, folding seating, perch seats etc.

The study was methodologically innovative and involved three elements:
• qualitative research using focus groups to explore how rail travellers perceive seating issues in different situations
• on train stated preference survey which also collected attitudinal information, and
• an innovative revealed preference analysis of on train CCTV footage.

The objective of the focus groups was to explore how people perceived different types of seating in different conditions particularly whether the carriage was empty or populated. Four Focus groups were carried out two in the North and two in the South. Seating comfort issues for example leg room and width were also explored. Another important function of the focus groups was to explore the best way of presenting the SP experiment for the on train survey. The focus groups produced very useful evidence on how rail travellers perceive seating issues and provided a sound basis for the design of the on train survey including the Stated Preference experiment. This study provides an excellent case study in how qualitative research and quantitative research can be combined to provide excellent insight.

The on train survey was carried out on eight commuter routes: four in London, one in the West Midlands and three in the North. We aimed to collect 2000 completed questionnaires but managed to exceed this and our sample contained over 2700 responses, and three quarters of these completed the SP experiment successfully (over 2000). This large sample provided an excellent evidence base for the study.

As well as collecting background information about the journey people were making and their demographic details, we also collected attitudinal information by asking whether they agreed or not with 13 statements, for example ‘ I would never sit in a seat going backwards’ or ‘I always try to get an aisle seat’. We presented a mock up of a carriage with different types of seating layout and asked what their preferred seat type was firstly in an empty carriage and secondly in a populated carriage. The focus groups provided evidence that these would be different and this was borne out by the on train survey. The final part of the on train survey was a SP experiment where respondents were asked to trade off seating quality and rail journey time by choosing a particular seat type. The SP models produced excellent and plausible results.

The final part of the study was very innovative and involved an analysis of on train CCTV video footage This involved viewing CCTV video footage from two TOCs one in the North and one in the South to explore what train travellers did when they boarded a train – whether they stood, walked through the carriage or sat down, and if they sat what type of seat did they sit in? We managed to collect nearly a thousand RP observations. Although the RP results were not as quite as well defined as the SP results they did produce similar results.

The reassuring aspect of this study was that similar results were found from all aspects of the study – the qualitative research, the on train attitudinal evidence plus the SP and RP models.

The results of the study may be used to update future editions of PDFH.


Association for European Transport