Class 800 Series Driver's Cab


Hitachi Rail Europe


An award-winning fleet of 122 trains on the Great Western Main Line and the East Coast Main Line




  • Industrial design
  • Interior design
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Production support
  • Prototyping
  • Testing & evaluation
  • Usability & HF

A collaborative approach to train cab design

A core focus of the Hitachi Class 800/801 train cab design was optimising driver task performance. This involved creating a comfortable, controlled environment with great internal and external visibility and a logical desk layout that allows drivers to remain focused, carry out their day-to-day tasks intuitively and with the minimum of effort and respond quickly to unexpected events.

As with all design projects, any design changes in the cab would have been significantly more expensive and more difficult to implement as the project approached the final build phase. Accordingly, it was important that we actively engaged with the core stakeholders – particularly the drivers themselves – and that opportunities to optimise the design of the cab were identified as early in the design process as possible. Once opportunities were identified, it was also imperative that they were clearly communicated to the wider group of stakeholders to expedite the decision-making process.

To this end, a collaborative approach was adopted from the outset. The cab layout was developed jointly and interactively with drivers from the two train operating companies along with union representatives. The process started with basic cardboard models of the desk and re-locatable paper print outs of the displays, controls and other desk equipment, then moved through ergonomic rigs of increasing fidelity to arrive at a fully representative interior and exterior mock up of the cab. Representatives from the Hitachi engineering team were also present at these interactive workshops to ensure that solutions were technically deliverable and commercially viable.

The cab layout was developed jointly and interactively with drivers from the two TOCs

From a physical perspective, driver accommodation models were the starting point of the design. This involved explicitly designing for drivers ranging from 1514mm tall (just under 5 foot) to 1869mm (6 foot 2 inches) and ensuring that the full range of drivers had easy visibility and access to all primary controls and displays, alongside a clear external view of the track ahead – regardless of their size or stature.

On a cognitive level, drivers need to be able to locate the correct controls quickly in order to respond to unfolding events. Accordingly, the cab control layout needed to consider frequency of use, functional grouping (e.g. all engine controls in one location), left or right hand bias (most the time the left hand will be on the combined power brake controller) and the risk of inadvertent operation. Task Analysis was used to evaluate and fine-tune the final desk layout proposal, with a range of drivers confirming that the arrangement of equipment and controls was optimised for the most frequently used driving tasks.

The design also considered the interaction with the wider environment. A new practical approach to glare assessment was developed that allowed direct and reflected glare issues related to internal and external light sources to be identified and addressed at the mock-up stage.

Task Analysis was used to evaluate and fine-tune the final desk layout proposal

The success of this multi-stakeholder process and the quality of its outcome was recognised in October 2015 when DCA and Hitachi Rail Europe were awarded the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) Stanley H. Caplan User-Centred Product Design Award. More significantly, Hitachi chose to work with DCA again as their design and Human Factors partner on the subsequent Class 385 gangway cab project for Abellio ScotRail.

We have now supported Hitachi and other train manufacturers on a series of Human Factors compliance programmes covering both drivers’ cabs and passenger interiors. As a result of this unparalleled level of experience, we are now acknowledged experts in the regulations, procedures and processes surrounding the efficient achievement of Human Factors compliance for UK rolling stock interiors.

A new practical approach to glare assessment was developed