Stakeholders sit down and relax with West Midlands Trains

Passenger groups given preview of rail company investment.

West Midlands Trains has given Rail User Groups a sneak preview of the seating being developed for a brand new fleet of trains.

The new seats, developed by FISA and Schoenemann Design Ltd were unveiled at the train operator’s maintenance depot in Tyseley, Birmingham. They are due to be installed in new Class 196 units being manufactured by Spanish business, CAF. As well having the chance to test out the new seats, visitors were taken on a tour of the facility and given an insight into the development process for the new units, set to be introduced on the Birmingham Snow Hill lines in Summer 2020.

Customer experience has been at the heart of the design process, with a particular emphasis placed on the comfort and configuration of new saloon seats. The new Class 196 units will have additional capacity in comparison to existing West Midlands Trains regional fleets and the final design scheme allows improved seat pitch and window views in all positions.

Additionally, passengers will all have access to a USB point or a plug socket and every seat in standard or priority positions will have either a seat-back or fixed table. The cantilever design of the seats will also improve cleanliness and allow luggage to be stored underneath more easily.

The Class 196 units and their improved seating form part of a £1 billion pound investment package by the train operator to improve services across the network. This includes £700 million investment in new and refurbished trains; £70 million into new and existing depots to improve reliability; 20,000 extra seats for rush hour passengers in Birmingham and standing room for 50,000 more commuters in new, metro-style carriages.

Neil Bamford, engineering director at West Midlands Trains, said: “We’ve undergone a lengthy consultation process to get this right but the results will speak for themselves. Passengers travelling on the new units will be able to enjoy industry-leading standards of comfort and accessibility. Our customers are at the heart of everything we do and it was clear from the start that we needed to deliver something that really hit the mark. The feedback we have received today shows we have made the right choice.

“West Midlands Trains has a strong relationship with CAF and it’s extremely pleasing to see that increasing numbers of customers, us included, has encouraged the manufacturer to expand outside of Spain, with plans to open a new production facility in Wales.”

Fraser Pithie of the Shakespeare Line Rail User Group, commented: “Thank you to West Midlands Trains for today’s tour of Tyseley. It’s not until you can see behind the scenes that you realise just how much planning and work goes into preparing for a whole new fleet of trains.”

Colin Major, honorary secretary at Railfuture West Midlands, added: “I am sure from the positive comments made by my fellow invitees that everyone found it a very informative event and I look forward to informing our members of the well thought out design for these DMUs.”