The Anonymous Widower

Thoughts On Seating In East Coast Trains’ New Class 803 trains

This page on RailAdvent contains this YouTube video of one of East Coast Trains’ New Class 803 trains under test.


On this page on the First Group web site, they give some details of the service.

  • Five trains per day, seven days per week in both directions.
  • One class of travel
  • Offer tickets at an average price of less than £25.
  • At seat catering on every train.
  • Introduce an additional 1.5 million seats on the route every year.

They also expect 80 % of passengers to be new to rail.

The internet doesn’t give the number of seats on the train, so I will estimate a number.

The number of trains per year will be at least 365 * 2  * 5, which is an easy 3650 trains.

Dividing this into 1.5 million gives 410.9 seats per train. I’ll call that 411.

After I made that estimate, I found this page on the Beacon Rail Leasing web site.

It gives this information.

  • Power – 4.5 MW
  • Speed – 125 mph
  • Passenger Capacity – 400
  • Weight – 228.5 tonnes

Using the figure of 400 passengers and 3650 trains per year, that gives a total number of 1,460,000 passengers per year, which is probably within the margin of error for the arithmetic of marketing experts.

If you watch the video, the following can be ascertained.

  • The two driver cars have six large windows each.
  • The three centre cars have nine large windows each.
  • It looks like the seating in the train is three on one side and two on the other.

This picture shows the Standard Class seating bay layout on a Great Western Railway Class 802 train.



  1. The seats are arranged either side of the window.
  2. There are lots of tables.
  3. If the blind was up, passengers will get a good view.

If as I surmised from the video, seating is two+three and there are 39 bays, that means that the train has a base seating capacity of 390 seats.

That leaves ten seats to find places for, or just two per car.

With two+two seating, there would be 312 seats in the bays under windows, so there would be a need to fit in another 86 seats.

It appears to me that to meet their objective of 1.5 million additional seats that a two+three layout is needed.

But it could be that most passengers will get a proper table and possibly reasonable leg room. Try getting that on a budget airline!

A Few Questions

These are a few questions.

When Will The Service Start?

Your guess is as good as mine, but First Group are saying Autumn 2021.

Is The Service Geared For Group Or Family Travel?

Each train has thirty-nine groups of six seats and the same number of groups of four seats.

If say it was granny’s birthday in Edinburgh or a group of six friends were going to Scotland-England at Murrayfield, the layout would accommodate groups and families well.

They certainly need a good seat allocation algorithm.

Will I Be Able To Use My Railcard?

I would suspect not!

But then it would only save £8.33!

What About Delay Repay?

This will be automatic! I can’t ever be bothered to claim otherwise!

Will There Be Disabled Toilets?

It’s the law! But I have seen some much smaller ones that are well-designed and meet all aspects of the law in some new trains, so I would expect to find innovative designs.

Will There Be Single Seats?

I can sleep anywhere and regularly find myself returning to London curled in the corner of my seat fast asleep.

A single seat in the corner of the carriage might be ideal for some passengers.

Will Everybody Get A Table?

If I’m right about each seating bay having a table, then it would look like around ninety-seven percent of passengers would get a proper table. Not big enough for a copy of the Daily Telegraph, but they should have enough space for a laptop and/or a few beers.

What Food And Drink Will Be Offered?

I suspect, it will mainly be drinks and snacks like crisps or nutrition bars, which can be easily served from a trolley.

It should be noted that the three major stations on the route King’s Cross, Newcastle and Edinburgh all have a good selection of places to buy a carry-on!

But unlike at an airport, I suspect passengers won’t turn up two or three hours before departure, so will be unlikely to eat before departure.

I do think, that we could see improvements in the food offerings for taking on the train at Stevenage and Morpeth.

East Coast Trains may also contribute to the development of carry-on shops at some stations.

Will The Trains Accept Bicycles?

This is a tricky one and personally I feel that offering a decent bike hire service could be better value all round.

Using The Fleet Of Five Trains

Wikipedia and other sources indicate that the fleet is just five trains.

We know these facts or proposals.

  • King’s Cross and Edinburgh are 393.15 miles apart.
  • LNER run trains between King’s Cross and Edinburgh in four hours and twenty minutes (4 stops) and four hours and forty minutes (9 stops)
  • The record time between King’s Cross and Edinburgh was set in 1991 by a shortened all-electric InterCity 225 train at three hours twenty-nine minutes  and thirty seconds, which represented an average speed of 112.5 mph.
  • Trains start leaving King’s Cross and Edinburgh about 05:45.
  • The Werrington Dive-Under will, be completed in 2021.
  • The King’s Cross Remodelling should be completed this year.
  • Full digital in-cab signalling is being installed between King’s Cross and Doncaster. This will allow 140 mph running and as a Control Engineer, I believe it could ease the bottlenecks at Newark and over the Digswell Viaduct.
  • East Coast Trains’ Class 803 trains appear to have been designed for sparkling acceleration.
  • East Coast Trains will only make three stops.
  • East Coast Trains intend to compete with the budget airlines.
  • East Coast Trains intend their first train to arrive in London by 10:00. Does that mean Edinburgh as well?

I have just checked on Real Time Trains and this East Coast Trains timetable can be found.

King’s Cross and Edinburgh

  • 05:45 – Arrives 10:10 – 4 hours 25 minutes – Stops at Stevenage
  • 10:45 – Arrives 15:17 – 4 hours 32 minutes
  • 12:18 – Arrives 16:41 – 4 hours 23 minutes – Stops at Stevenage
  • 14:36 – Arrives 19:15 – 4 hours 39 minutes
  • 20:18 – Arrives 00:46 – 4 hours 28 minutes

Edinburgh and King’s Cross

  • 06:14 – Arrives 10:51 – 4 hours 37 minutes
  • 09:11 – Arrives 13:48 – 4 hours 37 minutes
  • 11:14 – Arrives 15:46 – 4 hours 32 minutes
  • 16:12 – Arrives 20:47 – 4 hours 35 minutes – Stops at Stevenage
  • 19:58 – Arrives 01:05 – 5 hours 7 minutes – Stops at Stevenage


  1. Times appear to be in-line with those of LNER.
  2. East Coast Trains’ objective of arriving by 10:00 is not met.
  3. Paths exist for East Coast Trains from the 7th June.

I believe this timetable is based on what is possible today without the improvements at King’s Cross and Werrington, and the digital signalling.

What Could Be Possible?


  • The improvements that are underway will help to reduce journey times.
  • I also believe that by being clever, East Coast Trains could reduce turn-round times at King’s Cross and Edinburgh.

I think it is likely, that East Coast Trains could probably run between King’s Cross and Edinburgh in a time of around four hours.

I can also see a turn-round time of five minutes, if East Coast Trains use all their First Group experience.

Could this mean, a train starting from King’s Cross doing the following trips in a day?

  • 05:50 – King’s Cross to Edinburgh – Arrives 09:50
  • 09:55 – Edinburgh to King’s Cross – Arrives 13:55
  • 14:00 – King’s Cross to Edinburgh – Arrives 18:00
  • 18:05 – Edinburgh to King’s Cross – Arrives 22:05
  • 22:10 – King’s Cross to Edinburgh – Arrives 02:10


  1. A second train would mirror this time-table starting in Edinburgh.
  2. Every minute saved on each journey between King’s Cross and Edinburgh will bring the final arrival forward.
  3. There is tremendous potential to speed up services.

This time-table would be straight out of Michael O’Leary’s notebook about making assets sweat.


I think that East Coast Trains have done a Ryanair and designed the train to accommodate the maximum number of passengers. But the quoted £25 fare does appear to be good value.

I am certain that two+three seating will be used.

May 28, 2021 - Posted by | Design, Transport/Travel | , , , , , ,


  1. Plenty of reports now published from the amateurs as to Hitachi’s product. Apart from seat comfort when you are next aboard note interior lighting intensity at night, ride and noise from suspension . Not the improvement on MK 3 and 4 coaches that you could have expected but ,in fairness, the suspension needs to be stiffer as speeds increase or so I am told. Stadler are little better with their tram-train services out of Norwich.

    Comment by Thomas Carr | May 28, 2021 | Reply

    • I haven’t finished this post yet and I wasn’t going to talk about the quality of the seats until I sit on them.

      Comment by AnonW | May 28, 2021 | Reply

    • I have always found the Mk3 on GEML to be a bit noisey and bouncy. I had my first train trip for over a year on the route so had my first experience of the FLIRT on a late evening quiet train and found it smoother and quieter, but I couldn’t compare recent experiences. Seats harder but acceptable for 2 hours.

      First is a more of an upgrade on the, FLIRT, though, wider softer seats with guaranteed table, worth the extra £6 on a £13 one way advance, maybe not at higher price points.

      Branch line 3/4 carriage FLIRTs very much an upgrade from old 1 carriage diesel railcar/2 carriage DMU (etc.).

      Comment by MilesT | May 29, 2021 | Reply

    • And if the suspension is stiffer then the seats need to be softer! You will never attract a substantial number of people to switch from car to train until train seats and carriage interiors offer the same standard of comfort as the average family saloon car. It’s time that regulators, railway carriage designers, seat manufacturers and train operators understood this. In many cases on a long journey I am more likely to forgive a delay if I am sitting comfortably in nice surroundings (true of stations as well as railway carriages). But if I am sitting on a bum-numbing Thameslink seat or a TfL bench or pacing up and down at a station lacking seats and facilities, I am likely to get really cross and, if I have the option, will avoid repeating the experience. THIS is the nettle the railways MUST grasp. Still, I like the colour – it’s nice shade of blue! Good to see a ‘grown-up’ livery instead of a just-out-of-college designer’s incoherent mishmash.

      Comment by Stephen Spark | May 29, 2021 | Reply

      • I do think First Group are thinking this through, as 97 % of passengers are getting a table. But they see the major competition for this service as the budget airlines.

        Comment by AnonW | May 29, 2021

      • Comfort level scale: sofa at home > biz class airline seat long haul > car seat > older train seat/biz class airline seat short haul > newer train seat > budget airline seat.

        Comfort meets to be part of the package of what you are trying to attract customers from, as well as speed/cost. In some cases trains are pitching for budget airline customers.

        My understanding of current train seat specs is a mixture of non flammability and a DfT spec that optimised other characteristics over sitting comfort.

        My advice: if it is a problem, bring your own extra padding (cut down foam exercise mats covered in dark coloured pillowcases work well..I have made something similar for an car seat in an older car that was too low for me and was not adjustable and used heavily for several years). Add a fabric carry sleeve with backpack type straps that can be worn next to back with additional backpack/rucksack on top.

        Comment by MilesT | May 31, 2021

  2. There will be 398 seats per set, 2+2 layout not 2+3 as stated on here. 5 min turnarounds wont happen as the train crew are all based at Newcastle so with a 5 minute turn around this would require two sets of train crew.

    Timetable is to begin with, hoping for improvements from May/Dec 22 to get journey times around the 4hr mark. First train by 10am was only ever for the northbound, not the southbound service.

    Seats are not the usual 80X seats by Hitachi but sourced from outside, they are deceiving… they’re actually quite comfortable.
    Catering will be more than just the bog standard trolly… guess you’ll have to stay tuned to learn more later in summer 🙂

    Comment by DillerT | June 18, 2021 | Reply

    • Thanks!

      I was unsure about the seats, as in some videos, they could be 2+3.

      Comment by AnonW | June 18, 2021 | Reply

      • No, deffo 2+2

        Worth noting in each coach its mostly airline style, i dont see many tables! The tables are normally where the direction of seat changes, i can only see one change so im thinking only 2 tables per coach

        Comment by DillerT | June 26, 2021

  3. […] Thoughts On Seating In East Coast Trains’ New Class 803 trains, I looked at what the seats could be like and decided they could be generous with lots of tables […]

    Pingback by All Change As First Class Ditched By New Intercity Rail Service « The Anonymous Widower | September 7, 2021 | Reply

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