VR-Yhtymä Oy

Restaurant car concept

LINK’s service design team was got to show its teeth when it upgraded one of the cornerstones of Finnish rail travel, VR’s restaurant car, to a completely new look.

The result was the world’s first two-storey restaurant car. Service design was guided by a user-driven approach: the experiences of customers and employees were at the core of the process.

VR wanted to offer its customers novel restaurant car experiences and provide more modern and flexible services. The aim of the design work was to better meet the various needs of different kinds of passengers and to facilitate the work of the personnel as well as the maintenance and upkeep of the car. The interior design was defined by VR’s new green look, and the design of the energy and recycling solutions was guided by environmental values.

Users involved in the design

The project had a user-driven approach to redesigning the services and developing the customer experience. Different user groups, VR personnel and car manufacturer Transtech were therefore invited to join the planning project.

Background interviews with the various stakeholders implied that a functional layout and adaptability to various passenger needs would be the key factors in design. The working conditions of the personnel, the mobility of the customers, and the ease of maintenance and upkeep were recognized as the core elements of the future concept.

Double-decker service

The design work resulted in the DuettoPlus restaurant car concept – the world’s first double-deck restaurant car. The double-deck feature is efficiently applied to serve different customer groups, from business travellers to holidaymakers.

A refurbished café/bar was designed on the lower deck. In addition, an entryway kiosk was developed for extra flexibility and space for peak hours. On the upper deck, a new kind of service concept, the DuettoPlus passenger compartment, was created to meet the needs of different customers. There are, for example, rotating seats where you can socialise or admire the scenery. Business travellers were offered a separate cabinet with a meeting room for 12 people.

Plywood model facilitated testing

For user tests and the evaluation of the functionality of the space, LINK tapped into its R&D expertise: for visualising the concept, a plywood model was built that later also supported the technical 3D design.

The testing phase lasted a total of six months and involved sales personnel and loaders from Avecra, the operator responsible for restaurant services, as well as conductors, train cleaning staff and maintenance workers. In addition to passengers recruited through VR’s loyalty program, the car was also tested by representatives of a disability association. Based on the tests, the space and its dimensions were further refined.

Top experiences on rails

After the layout design was ready, LINK developed tailored solutions and a unique interior for the restaurant car, with VR’s green look strongly represented in the materials and guide signs. The green values are emphasized by design choices aiming to lower energy consumption, such as the aluminum frame of the car and the LED lighting of the facilities. Environmental values are also considered in the recycling and sorting of waste as well as in the use of porcelain tableware and biodegradable takeaway cups.

Twenty-six restaurant cars were handed over to VR between 2014 and 2015. The restaurant cars offering top service raise the value of VR’s brand and improve the customer experience of different passenger groups. The cars are used on InterCity trains, serving passengers from Helsinki all the way to Kemijärvi.
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