Although the designs are currently conceptual, they were funded by the UK's Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) with a view, ultimately, to improving passenger experience. In addition, PriestmanGoode itself has a strong track record of transport design, including the new driverless trains for the London Underground, as well as airplane business class cabins for Swiss International Air Lines, Virgin Australia and United Airlines.
The seat designs are based on the premise that many cities and their transport networks are faced with increasing levels of overcrowding. Designer and chairman at PriestmanGoode Paul Priestman points out that, while it's important for us to encourage the more sustainable use of public transport over the use of personal vehicles, such services become unpleasant to use as capacity begins to fall short of passenger numbers.
"In many countries the existing public transport infrastructure cannot be improved sufficiently quickly to keep pace with these rapidly increasing passenger numbers and, in many cases, platforms cannot be extended nor the size of trains increased," says Priestman in a press release. "So, as designers, we need to innovate to help alleviate the problem and improve passenger experience."
The first of PriestmanGoode's two seats, the Horizon, is designed to take up considerably less space than a typical commuter train seat, allowing for 20-30 percent more seating in a carriage. The two-seat, side-by-side unit also has a slightly staggered configuration, increasing shoulder space and personal space for each passenger.
Luggage storage space and bag hooks at the Horizon seats allow passengers to keep their belongings close at hand at all times and eliminate the need for luggage racks. They are also said to provide a fully supported seating position and each seat has two footrests so as to accommodate passengers of different heights. Mobile device mounts can support tablets and smartphones at a range of viewing angles and there are USB charging points as well.
The Island Bay seat, meanwhile, is designed to be a flexible solution that can provide regular seating during off-peak times and a more economic setup at busier times. To do so, its base flips up to provide a seat that is higher, is thinner and takes up less space, but that is still fully supportive, unlike perch seats commonly found on public transport. In addition to providing more standing space, this also brings into play an additional flip-up seat mounted underneath the window, which can otherwise be used as a table.
Around 15-20 percent more seats can be fitted into a train carriage by way of the Island Bay seats and they are said to afford wider-than-average aisles too, which are more accessible for wheelchairs, strollers, large luggage and folding bicycles. Also built into the Island Bay seats are anti-theft/pick-pocket shields and twin USB charging ports.
PriestmanGoode says the Horizon and Island Bay seats can be installed on new or existing trains and trams and could be rolled out within a year. The firm also suggests they could be used in combination with regular seats.