Interior design vision


London North Eastern Railway (LNER)


New interior vision and development




  • Colour, material and finish
  • Industrial design
  • Prototyping
  • Virtual reality
Since Hitachi Rail were awarded the Intercity Express Project (IEP) in 2012, DCA have formed a close working relationship with their project teams in both the UK and Japan. The original design contract was awarded to DCA based on a scope of work defined by the UK Department for Transport (DfT). The overriding intention was to produce a modular train platform that could meet the needs of the different rail routes across England and into Scotland. The initial customers for the train were Great Western Railway and Virgin Trains East Coast.

UK rail operators generally take on time limited franchises or financial commitments that are revised or updated on regular basis. This was the case with Virgin Trains. DCA started to develop the interiors for the Virgin branded East Coast train service but this was then transferred to London North Eastern Railway (LNER) in 2018.

DCA were instrumental in adapting the original Hitachi/DfT specification to give the LNER train interiors a unique visual identity. The process of selecting colours, materials and finishes (CMF) for the interiors focussed on changes that could be implemented without structural modifications or major interior re-configuration.

We worked closely with LNER’s project team.

Standard Class

Early on in the project DCA focused on the journey experience that LNER wanted to create, incorporating their distinctive new brand identity. This was in part a carry over from the solutions we had created for Virgin Trains when they were planning to operate the trains. So a key part of our design strategy agreed with LNER was to continue using Virgin Red as a key colour theme. This provided continuity with the existing trains in service that were due for replacement by the new Hitachi fleet.

Virgin Red was used as the unifying theme with a ribbon motif featuring in the exterior livery. This graphic style was chosen to signify flow and movement. Close collaboration with the project team and nominated suppliers enabled us to generate ideas for the interiors around the ribbon motif that looked fresh and distinctive.

A range of vibrant reds with a gradated linear ribbon pattern was designed for the seat fabrics and carpet in Standard Class. This provided a distinctive, stand out colour theme that is attractive to the broad range of passengers who use this service and instantly synonymous with LNER’s intercity service from London up to Edinburgh.

DCA created a unique journey experience based on LNER’s vision for the service.

1st Class innovation

The First Class proposition for the interiors took inspiration from the early days of intercity travel when the concept of service was paramount. So for the First Class interiors we adopted a rich oxblood colour to generate the right balance of luxury and practicality. The idea was to use a traditional colour in a modern context to imbue the interiors with a quality feel that evokes the best features of rail travel. The First Class CMF has a more subtle linear fabric pattern fitted to wider seats with recline function and height adjustable leather headrest pillows to enhance the comfort level and create a more sophisticated look and feel.

The First Class headrest pillow was another special feature. The adjustable, wrap round leather pillow provides a comfortable head and neck support and adds real value to the First Class sitting experience. It was important to provide a distinctive visual statement (wrinkle free, smooth and attractive) with the ergonomic benefit of accommodating tall or petite individuals. A moulded foam solution was developed to maintain the visual refinement in-service providing an easy to clean contact surface that looks inviting every day.

The adjustable, wrap round leather pillow provides a comfortable head and neck support and adds real value to the First Class sitting experience.

LED light development

The unique train interior ambiance was derived from the carefully curated colour and material palette but also from the novel and effective use of diffused light from hidden LED light sources positioned either side of the central air conditioning duct. In the low roof area a signature loop of direct light compliments the interior detailing.

The original IEP design intent provides a neutral colour effect from the LEDs. During the development of the new LNER interiors it was decided to soften the light output to create a warmer, more muted ambiance that complemented the seat fabric colours. A subtle tinted effect was proposed which required experimentation with the LED specification and coloured filters.

DCA worked with LPA Lighting Systems to achieve the right balance of light levels (Lux) and colour range that provides the interiors with the special finishing touch that enhances the chosen LNER brand colours used throughout the interiors.

These trains now are being brought into service to replace 30-year-old rolling stock and are designed to provide a new benchmark in customer experience and relaxing intercity travel.

Quotes from Jon Colley, LNER:
“Yesterday I finally got to board an Azuma with our ‘red’ seats and new carpets fitted out in Standard. I have to say it looks fantastic; it completely transforms what was there before.”

“[We discussed] making a statement and creating something that hasn’t been done before. Well in my opinion it is job done!”

"It completely transforms what was there before.”

Jon Colley, LNER