From its discovery in ancient times, humans have both been in awe of, and frightened by, fire. An uncontrolled fire is a risk to which we are all exposed and manage daily. Steam trains, of course, depend on a well-controlled fire for their very operation, although their emissions often cause uncontrolled fires on the lineside.
As with much of railway safety, lessons have been learned from accidents over the years. There have been many fires, often with tragic consequences, that have led to significantly improved fire safety. However, we could still be caught out and we must never be complacent.
I recall my introduction to fire safety in the early 1970s when many people still carried lighters. As a young engineer, I would find a new component that might be suitable for use on a train, and a colleague might whip out his lighter and subject it to the flame; a very basic fire test that separated the ‘awful’ from the ‘possible’.
There were also occasional incidents where a train would catch on fire several hours after coming out of service. Smouldering cigarettes, hardboard panelling and oil-based paints were not a good combination.
In one incident in particular, a terrible choice of materials led to a devastating fire, fortunately without serious injury. On 23 June 1949, in Penmanshiel Tunnel, two carriages of an express train from Edinburgh to London were destroyed by “a fire of great ferocity which spread very rapidly,” to quote from the inquiry report.
These coaches, only two years old, had steel underframes and exterior panelling with wooden frames and interior cladding. The wood on its own was not the cause of the fire. The inspectors discovered that parts had been painted with a cellulose nitrate varnish that was shown to be extremely easy to set alight and to have exceptionally rapid rate of flame spread. It was thought that a discarded cigarette ash set the varnish alight.
There was some consternation from the inspecting officer that this varnish had been selected in the first place, given that the dangers of cellulose nitrate were well known at the time.
More recent incidents have led to big changes in the industry. On the main line, the Taunton sleeper fire in 1978, which killed twelve people, was caused by imported material (bedding) catching fire when stored against an electric heater. The Taunton fire led to fundamental changes to the design of the mk3 sleeper coaches which were being considered at the time.
For London Underground, it was the King’s Cross fire in 1987 which led to changes to underground station legislation, management process, improved fire systems and the upgrade of materials for improved fire performance on stations and over 3,000 metro cars.
In terms of standards, these fires also led to engineers and chemists developing standards that drove the supply industry to develop better materials. LU developed its Code of Practice for the Fire Safety of Materials, the main line industry developed GM/RT 2130 – Vehicle Fire Safety and Evacuation and BS6853 – Code
of Practice for Fire Precautions in the Design and Construction of Passenger Carrying Trains followed. In 1989, an international committee was set up to develop a European standard that finally gained approval in 2013 and brings us to the subject of this article.
So much for a micro-history, the story was taken up by David Tooley in his recent lecture to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, “Rolling Stock Fire Safety – Where Next?” David’s paper concentrated on EN 45545 revisions, FCCS systems, PHRR calculation methods and CFD.
Baffled by standard numbers and acronyms? Don’t worry, all will become clear!
Firstly, some recent background. We all know that passenger numbers are increasing and that train movements and mileage are also increasing. Against this expansion, however, the number of reported train interior fires has fallen by 95 per cent since 2004, with just 10 fires being reported in 2015.
Technical fires on trains (engine fires, electrical fires and so on) have also fallen, but not to the same extent, giving an overall total of just 30 fires on the UK main line railway reported in 2015, two thirds of them technical fires. Most of them are of very low power and flashover fires are very rare. This is good news, but, as ever with safety, one cannot be complacent.
David moved onto the topic of the current standards applicable to train fire safety. He mentioned EN 50553 – Requirements for Running Capability in Case of Fire on Board of Rolling Stock and EN 45545 Railway Applications: Fire Protection on Rolling Stock. The latter is the Euronorm that is replacing BS 6853 as the requirements to control the risk of ignition, development, consequences and management of fire on trains. It is a suite of standards in seven parts covering:
- Fire behaviour of materials and components
- Requirements for fire barriers
- Requirements for rolling stock design
- Requirements for electrical equipment
- Fire control and management systems
- Requirements for flammable liquid/gas installations.
EN45545 took a long time to develop, mainly because of very different approaches to fire safety in EU member states, but finally appeared in 2013. There was much concern in the UK that some requirements were being significantly diluted, especially those for upholstered seats, and the UK’s concern was such that it voted against its adoption. The main problem was believed to be the seat test, which seemed to be inadequate to eliminate poorly performing products.
RSSB commissioned research projects T843 and T1012 to explore formally the weaknesses and strengths of the new standard. These reports showed that the transition to EN 45545 was a risk to the continued improvement to fire safety compared with BS 6853. David illustrated the results of tests on a number of seat designs that would fail the BS 6853 criteria, but would pass the EN 45545 test.
These results were instrumental in persuading CEN to set up a new working group to introduce revisions to EN45545. This work started in 2015 and needs to be completed by 2018 to coordinate with changes to some of the TSIs, which must become mandatory by that date.
The principal change is to increase the heat source applied during the seat test from 7kW for three minutes to 15kW for the same time. Moreover, the assessment will, in future, include both the heat release rate and smoke produced by the sample. Other changes have been made to improve test repeatability. David reported that this new test does indeed separate good seats from bad. David also touched briefly on work to transpose the results of recent research (the Transfeu programme) into standards.
Fire Containment and Control Systems (FCSS)
The presentation moved onto the control of the situation once a fire has started on a moving train.
FCCS is the process of making sure that it is tenable for passengers to survive in a fire event until they can reach a place of relative safety (another acronym explained!). Often, this is achieved by provision of physical fire barriers and by moving people away from the fire beyond the fire barrier. Indeed, the Safety in Rail Tunnels TSI requires fire barriers every 30 metres for some types of train unless an alternative ‘equivalent’ FCCS protection is provided.
It often possible to have a fire barrier between coaches as they are rarely longer than 30 metres although, increasingly, suburban trains are provided with open wide gangways between coaches. This is also an issue on metro trains (where TSIs are not applicable). Clearly, where open wide gangways are provided, fire barriers are impracticable.
A variety of techniques have been used instead to control smoke and/or fire on such trains including airflow management systems on Thameslink and Crossrail trains and use of water mist systems on Italian trains. A standard under development for FCCS will set the requirements to ensure that conditions are tenable for passengers and staff on ‘adjacent’ cars. This will set the requirements for managing the development of a small suitcase fire. The aim is to be able to suppress or extinguish fires so that there is no effect outside a 30-metre zone around the fire with no physical barriers.
David added, however, that a colleague had carried out a survey and found that the only recorded event of carry-on luggage causing a fire was when someone took a motorcycle fuel tank on an aircraft. That said, deliberate acts cannot be ignored.
Peak Heat Release Rate (PHRR)
The next acronym, PHRR, – ‘the rate of heat energy released during a rail vehicle flashover fire’ is used to help define infrastructure safety, structural, and ventilation requirements. There is a hierarchy of needs when developing a system strategy for fire protection (thinking particularly about tunnels):
» The rolling stock engineer is concerned to design a train where its materials are really difficult to set alight but, if they do ignite, they should burn slowly with low smoke
and toxic products. This enables passenger evacuation and represents the short term – a few minutes.
» The station manager has a somewhat longer timescale to manage. The passengers are off the train, but have to be evacuated from the station, then safe access has to be provided for fire fighters.
» Infrastructure managers must ensure that the structure can withstand the worst case credible fire and the PHRR is used to define infrastructure ventilation and structural requirements – basically to ensure that the structure is not compromised by the fire.
This has probably been one of the most difficult areas to nail down. There are differing views about how to calculate and apply PHRR. Calculations have typically been carried out on spreadsheets and make several significant assumptions which are not valid for modern trains:
Illustrating the benefits of modern train design, David outlined the recent research project carried out in Sweden where they set fire to an older train in a tunnel by setting simulated luggage alight. Fire spread rapidly with a PHRR of 70MW after 10 minutes.
They then repeated the test with a simulated modern vehicle (panelling over all the old vehicle’s cladding with metal and fitting modern seats). The PHRR was much the same at 70MW but it took 100 minutes to develop. It was suspected that the old materials which had been hidden by the metal cladding were eventually involved in the fire, but the principle of slowing down fire development had been demonstrated.
David also highlighted an exercise carried out by London Underground in late 1990s where they demonstrated the fire performance of upholstered seats on a 1992 Central line car. Rather than use the normal test involving one standard no.7 wooden crib, eight of these, amounting to one kilogramme of timber, were piled on a seat and set alight. The estimated PHRR of the wood was 1MW, significantly in excess of the test specification. David illustrated the test with photos showing ignition, burning furiously, and the remains when all the wood had burnt which is when the fire went out without any fire suppressant being used.
The repair required a new single seat, a new melamine panel and some paint.
David mentioned calculation techniques developed for use in Singapore and the UK and applied elsewhere which, essentially, involves calculating the PHRR per unit area, HRRPUA (yet another acronym), which is calculated for each type of material taking account of ignition source and carry-on luggage and then summed for the overall vehicle. From work of this nature, a typical metro car is usually assessed as having a PHRR of approximately 8MW and a main line car of approximately 13MW. Is this a real or credible value, David asked? That takes us onto the next section.
Computational Fluid Dynamics (last acronym!) is a process that is used to model how fluids (liquids, air, smoke) move over time in a given space. It has been used to assess PHRR by some train builders and they have been able to establish PHRR for metro cars of approximately 3MW, less than half the value calculated by other means.
So, which is the right value, 8MW or 3MW? If the lower value is the right answer it could significantly reduce system cost as the infrastructure controls would be less onerous. David explored whether this is a valid process for rolling stock, whilst recognising that it has been used in infrastructure projects for many years. He highlighted that a realistic model requires significant processing power to calculate the output. However, having such a model would allow both the FCCS and vehicle PHRR to be assessed, along with modifications to the vehicle and changes to the fire scenarios.
If CFD is to become an accepted technique for certifying designs it needs to be developed into a standardised process.
Drawing his fascinating presentation to a close, David explained how train fires are shown on the RSSB risk model (approximately the same risk as a two-train collision in a station from permissive working) and reminded everyone that, whilst fires are low probability events, they have a high potential for injury or fatality, so there is no room for complacency.
Written by Malcolm Dobell
Thanks to David Tooley, principal rolling stock engineer at Mott MacDonald, for his support in developing this article.
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) is the health and safety regulator and enforcement authority for the railway. Its role is to make sure that the health and safety of everyone associated with the rail industry is protected.
Short circuit, poor maintenance and lack of awareness are major reasons of fire in trains, according to the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
Stand back: Always stay behind the yellow lines at train stations. Enter or exit a station platform at designated areas. Stay off the tracks: Train tracks, bridges and yards are private property. Never walk, bike, skateboard or run on or along the tracks; it's illegal and dangerous.
Rail safety is incredibly important. Knowing how to navigate the railways in a safe and secure manner is vital, as while trains and their tracks are incredibly useful and crucial to our everyday lives, there are indeed dangers present if certain rules aren't followed.
Railway safety is concerned with the protection of life and property through regulation, management and technology development of all forms of rail transportation.
Classification of Fire
The four different fire (fuel) classifications are as under: 1) Class A: Wood, paper, cloth, trash and plastics - solids that are not metals.
Fire is a chemical reaction that converts a fuel and oxygen into carbon dioxide and water. It is an exothermic reaction, in other words, one that produces heat.
The 3 S's: Seatbelt, Speed, Stop. Learn it.
The Danger Zone is all space within 3m horizontally from the nearest rail and any distance above or below this 3m, unless a safe place exists or can be created.
Among the total people affected by railway accidents, twenty-seven percent lost their life while seventy-three percent got injured and IR faced a total loss of 86,486 crore INR. It means every fourth person affected by railway accidents lost his life. On an average, 0.76 persons got killed and caused a loss of Rs.
- Always wear your seatbelt when in a vehicle or heavy equipment. ...
- Always inspect equipment and tools. ...
- Always use fall protection when working at heights. ...
- Stay of out the blind spots of heavy equipment. ...
- Never put yourself in the line of fire. ...
- Utilize proper housekeeping measures to keep work areas clean.
- #1. Sleeping hours for middle berth occupant.
- #2. 2 station rule: Board your train from next 2 stops.
- #3. Extend your journey beyond de-boarding station.
- #4. Get full refund for short-terminated routes.
- #5. MRP on packaged food items.
- Other rules.
Train Collision Avoidance System (TCAS): TCAS is an Automatic Train Protection (ATP) System being developed in association with 3 Indian manufacturers. The system has been installed on Lingampalli – Vikarabad – Wadi, Vikarabad - Bidar section (250 RKMs) on South Central Railway.
put right any dangerous defects immediately, or take steps to protect anyone at risk. take precautions to prevent people or materials falling from open edges, eg fencing or guard rails. fence or cover floor openings, eg vehicle examination pits, when not in use.
The people who join us across our engineering arm are proud to work on the most visionary and challenging engineering projects in Europe. We actively encourage and invest in talented, dedicated individuals; we listen to their ideas; and give our people the freedom to make the right judgements and innovate together.
Overhead line equipment – or OLE – is the name for the overhead wires and other equipment you can see on electrified railway lines. It carries 25,000 volts of electricity to power electric trains.
Train Collision Avoidance System (TCAS): TCAS is an Automatic Train Protection (ATP) System being developed in association with 3 Indian manufacturers. The system has been installed on Lingampalli – Vikarabad – Wadi, Vikarabad - Bidar section (250 RKMs) on South Central Railway.
- Train conductor negligence.
- Train derailment.
- Improper maintenance of the train tracks.
- Faulty equipment.
- Collision with another train.
- Collision with a car, bus or truck trying to cross train tracks.
- Collapsed bridges.
You must be in a position of safety at least 10 seconds before a train arrives. Acknowledge the driver's warning by raising one arm above your head. Do not leave your position of safety until the COSS tells you to do so.
A majority of railroad accidents happen at railroad crossings with improper warning devices like gates or lights. They are typically caused by lack of visibility, impaired or distracted drivers, or drivers trying to outrun the train.
From its discovery in ancient times, humans have both been in awe of, and frightened by, fire. An uncontrolled fire is a risk to which we are all exposed and manage daily. Steam trains, of course, depend on a well-controlled fire for their very operation, although their emissions often cause uncontrolled fires on the lineside. […]
For London Underground, it was the King’s Cross fire in 1987 which led to changes to underground station legislation, management process, improved fire systems and the upgrade of materials for improved fire performance on stations and over 3,000 metro cars.. LU developed its Code of Practice for the Fire Safety of Materials, the main line industry developed GM/RT 2130 – Vehicle Fire Safety and Evacuation and BS6853 – Code. of Practice for Fire Precautions in the Design and Construction of Passenger Carrying Trains followed.. Technical fires on trains (engine fires, electrical fires and so on) have also fallen, but not to the same extent, giving an overall total of just 30 fires on the UK main line railway reported in 2015, two thirds of them technical fires.. General Fire behaviour of materials and components Requirements for fire barriers Requirements for rolling stock design Requirements for electrical equipment Fire control and management systems Requirements for flammable liquid/gas installations.. Often, this is achieved by provision of physical fire barriers and by moving people away from the fire beyond the fire barrier.
With the increasing usage, size and complexity of railway stations, comes the need to guarantee the safety and security of passengers, staff and goods.
In all cases, a comprehensive security and safety system that incorporates fire alarms, public address and evacuation systems, as well as intrusion detection, access control and video surveillance is needed.. Only state-of-the art technology can meet the challenge of securing railway stations.. The Need for Comprehensive Systems To enable efficient and reliable control of all systems, they need to be integrated into a single security system with central operations and management.. This can be achieved using a comprehensive building management system.. In railway stations, there are usually different areas with individual requirements for the fire alarm system.. They can also be used as part of an overall system that encompasses access control, intrusion detection and video surveillance.. At railway stations, large indoor and outdoor areas with varying patterns of traffic must be secured.. Modular intrusion alarm systems have a flexible system architecture that can be adapted to fit all possible layouts.. Train stations, subways and other public transport networks will play a critical role in keeping urban dwellers on the move, hence the need for comprehensive safety and security systems.. The video management system is monitored by the subways’ security control centre, which now serves as a model for transport monitoring in the region.. Two control posts constantly monitor the five metro lines via six monitors and two plasma screens.
Although rail maintenance facilities have a high concentration of people, the safety of depot workers does not have the same focus as there is for track workers. “Yards, depots and sidings account for 20% of all workforce harm – with 29% of fatalities in the last five years occurring in Yards, Depots and Sidings (YDS).” […]
Source: RSSB Annual Health and Safety Report 2019/20 With a third of workforce fatalities occuring in depots in the period covered by the latest RSSB report, there is a need for a depot worker safety task force as there is for track workers.. Achieving high operational throughput while keeping the risk to staff as low as is reasonably possible requires the right safety culture and effective follow up of health and safety incidents.. Whilst “there has been no sustained change in the number of recorded near-miss events involving rail workers over the last five years”, the RSSB Annual Health and Safety Report 2019/20 states that “although train operators input depot accidents to SMIS (Safety Management Intelligence System – the rail industry’s on-line health and safety reporting system), other organisations that carry out train care and maintenance do not.. In depots, train moves are made in the proximity to the workforce.. Minimising harm to staff requires safety to be designed into depots at the earliest opportunity and that this should acknowledge the changing maintenance environment, such as work being conducted on stabling roads.. It physically eliminates the risks posed by SPADs, overhead lines and high-powered equipment, making it easy to set up safe areas in which to work, where it is impossible for staff to be harmed by decision errors or lapses in communication.
Overview Fire safety of passenger trains in the United States has been approached by reg
The Fire Research Division has been involved in research related to passenger train fire safety since the 1970's.. From 1975 to 1979, rail transit car fire hazard evaluation reports for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Administration (WMATA) and Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) systems were published.. The WMATA subway car fire evaluation consisted of individual small-scale tests of several interior materials and seven full-scale tests to determine the overall effects of an assembled system as compared to the fire characteristics of the individual components.. While the small-scale test results indicated that the car interior may not be readily ignited by very small ignition sources, the full-scale test results showed that the materials failed to perform in their end-use configuration as would have been predicted.. The BART rail car evaluation included the review of interior and exterior car design, communication system, materials (tests and performance), fire detection and suppression, fire statistics, and scenarios.. The comparison of small-scale flammability and smoke emission test data with real-scale test data showed that the small-scale tests were able to effectively quantify the effect of changes in materials within the same real-scale geometry.. However, when the geometry of the full-scale rail coach car test mockup was changed, the chosen small-scale tests failed to predict the effects of the changes.. An extensive literature review documented U.S. and European approaches to passenger train fire safety that rely primarily on individual small-scale test methods to evaluate material fire performance.. Phase I focused on the evaluation of passenger rail car interior furnishing materials using data from existing FRA-cited small-scale test methods and from an alternative test method using the cone calorimeter (ASTM International E-1354) .. In Phase II, full-scale tests were conducted of selected interior material component assemblies using a larger scale furniture calorimeter; fire hazard analyses were then conducted for three types of intercity passenger rail cars, using data from both types of tests.. Phase III compared the results of Phases I and II of the research program, with a series of full-scale fire tests conducted in an Amtrak coach rail car.. From the fire hazard analyses conducted, conditions in all three passenger rail car designs studied remain tenable sufficiently long enough to allow safe passenger and crew egress for all but the most severe ignition sources.. The range of ignition source strengths indicated that an ignition source size between 25 kW and approximately 200 kW is necessary to promote significant fire spread, which is consistent with the conclusions from earlier research that the ignition source strength of passenger rail car materials is 2 to 10 times greater than typical office furnishings.. Brown, 1994 (8117 KB) Fire Safety of Passenger Trains, Phase I: Material Evaluation (Cone Calorimeter) by R. Peacock and E. Braun, 1999 (1940 KB) Fire Safety of Passenger Trains; Phase II: Application of Fire Hazard Analysis Techniques by R. Peacock, P. Reneke, J. Averill, R. Bukowski, and J. Klote, 2002 (7912 KB) Fire Safety of Passenger Trains; Phase III: Evaluation of Fire Hazard Analysis Using Full-Scale Passenger Rail Car Tests by R. Peacock, J. Averill, D. Madrzykowski, D. Stroup, P. Reneke, and R. Bukowski, 2004 (6666 KB). For the Howard Street Tunnel ﬁre, the peak calculated temperatures within the tunnel were approximately 1,000 °C within the ﬂaming regions, and on average approximately 500 °C when averaged over a length of the tunnel equal to three to four rail car lengths.
From the May 2016 issue of Railway Age: Specialized equipment and training help protect assets from wildfire damage. Every summer, particularly in the Western U.S. and Canada, fires triggered by lightning or human activity are an ordinary occurrence. During recent summers, however, wildfires have put railroads increasingly in the crosshairs.
UP spokesman Francisco Castillo said, “Our focus has been on preventative measures, so that we’re ready to respond in the event wildfires were to reach UP property.” Castillo outlined those measures for Railway Age: “We have an active Fire Risk Assessment program to determine our high risk territories.. A fire prevention program under way in the Donner Pass area of California during 2015 was “focused on 80 miles of the highest fire concentration.” UP said, “The project will clear the right-of-way of all grasses, brush and debris, and wood material (cleared trees) will be chipped on site and donated to the Rocklin Power Plant, where it can be used as a fuel source for the city.”. Remarkably dry conditions during 2015 brought an early start to the fire season, with BNSF dispatching a Spokane, Wash.-based fire train on two separate occasions in mid-June to assist aerial and ground resources on that city’s outskirts.. BNSF keeps similar fire trains on standby throughout the Northwest, but the role they play in protecting vital transportation corridors and supporting local agencies didn’t really get widespread attention until August 2015, when a large forest fire on the edge of Glacier National Park closed a section of U.S. Highway 2 in northwest Montana and suspended freight and Amtrak service on much of BNSF’s Northern Corridor.. The Spokane fire train utilizes bulkhead flatcars that have been converted to carry three to four modular tanks, each carrying roughly 3,250 gallons of water.. BNSF built a second fire train in 2008 in Vancouver, Wash., with a different design approach.. Stationed along the Columbia River at Wishram, Wash., it uses highly modified tank cars with generators and pump systems housed underneath and swivel cannons mounted on top, plus a command center caboose that’s outfitted with a spray bar that can soak wooden ties or bridges while the train is in motion.. Since fire train crews often work jointly with local responders, hoses and couplings on the BNSF railcars are made compatible with fire trucks and other equipment.. We have been building at least one a year for some time now.” They say the Wishram-based train currently has four tank cars, and other fire tank cars have been based at Vancouver, as well as Klamath Falls, Ore.. The Vancouver shop has utilized two basic car types: 16,000-gallon tank cars originally built in the 1940s for water transport service on the Santa Fe Railway, and 23,000-gallon tank cars that were converted in the 1980s into fuel tenders for Burlington Northern.. Additional fire trains based on the Spokane flat car design have been stationed at Seattle, Wenatchee and Pasco, Wash. As for the rest of the BNSF system, spokesman Gus Melonas said, “For the Southwest, we have an adequate fire protection plan with equipment, manpower and material in place designed to respond as necessary, same as in the Pacific Northwest.”. In a report released early this year, Vilsack said that 2015 wound up being “the most expensive fire season in our Department’s history, costing more than $2.6 billion on fire alone.” The U.S. Forest Service was forced to borrow from funds normally used for non-fire-related operations in order to shore up its depleted firefighting budget.
Rail disasters are growing more frequent and more severe and can happen in just about any community
Train derailments and other incidents are no exception.. As firefighters, you will accomplish this through rescue, use of water, mitigation of materials and scene stabilization using all the resources and agencies available.. As you and your crew begin preparations for staging, you will find yourself waiting for the next assignment.. Unified command has local, state and federal representatives of law enforcement, various government organizations and private industry in addition to our emergency response agencies.. Your job as a firefighter for such an event begins at the operations level under this unified command.. Documents: disaster preparedness, pre-incident plans and product and location.. So that's the end of the first day, the end of a work cycle when crews are moved in and out of the work zone.. It is unfortunate that we are improving our response capabilities simply because we are having more railroad incidents.
Discover the story of railway safety over the last century and explore the attempts to prevent accidents.
For example, in 1900 alone over 16,000 workers were injured or killed.. In the 19th century, the government and the public were mainly concerned with passenger safety.. Only with the rise of trades unions did the state (slowly) become interested in worker safety.. The railway companies saw it as the workers' responsibility to look after themselves.. They did the bare minimum, providing stern warnings through signs, rule books and circulars.. The Great Western Railway’s management introduced the Safety Movement in August 1913.. It was a radical departure, using photographs and a conversational tone to grab the reader's attention and show them what to do.. This accessible style soon spread throughout the railway industry, and has been used ever since.. Some workers used personal protective equipment, and government inspectors investigated a few worker deaths and injuries and recommended changes.. Safety education wasn’t just used for railway workers.. Sometimes this was the railway companies’ fault, and other times it was a consequence of the actions of the passengers themselves.. Companies used safety education to try to show passengers and children how to avoid the dangers of the railway, from getting in and out of carriages safely to preventing trespassing on the lines.. Initially safety education focused on workplaces, but was soon dominated by road safety.. This story was researched and compiled by Dr Mike Esbester of the University of Portsmouth.. Find out more about working conditions and some of the employees involved in accidents between 1911 and 1915 through the Railway Work, Life & Death project , a collaboration between the National Railway Museum and the University of Portsmouth.
Two recent derailments in Europe show safety on high-speed rail lines cannot always be guaranteed. What can be learned from these derailments?
Compared to traditional systems, the relatively recent introduction of high-speed rail has (so far) fared so well in protecting its passengers that when an accident does happen, it is even more noteworthy due to scarcity of precedents.. “High-speed trains [could be] the equivalent of the commercial planes in rail, they are so safe that we just take them for granted,” explains KE Seetha Ram, senior consulting specialist for capacity building and training projects at the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI).. In this sense, Seetha Ram says, high-speed trains could be compared to computer systems, which are constantly updated based on bugs and other malfunctions.. “But because the [number of] fatal accidents which resulted in a derailment or stopping of the train are [so rare] there are many other layers of avoidable or avoided and less tragic accidents which actually offer lessons and that is how the software gets updated.”. While investigations in Italy were recently brought to a halt as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, early conclusions on the Frecciarossa accident seem to point that ‘human error’ (allegedly some technicians’ wrong display of tracks) could have caused the derailment.. “The accident in Italy is being analysed from the perspective of human-errors at the front of maintenance operators,” says Bugalia, who recently completed a PhD dissertation on safety management practices among Japan’s high-speed rail (HSR) operators.. Human errors may have been identified as the reason behind the northern Italy accident, yet as Bugalia maintains, “the state-of-the-art safety approaches all consider human-error not as the ultimate cause of the accident, but a symptom of underlying factors that need to be addressed”.. What’s more is that while human operators still play a substantial role in handling traditional systems, their employment in HSR systems is gradually decreasing.. “As the speed of the trains has increased, a necessity for the enhanced control is thought necessary for which human operators may face certain limitations,” Bugalia continues.. “Hence, all HSR systems have relied on advanced and more sophisticated technical systems to support the role of human operators such that safety can be achieved even at higher speeds.”. “Because of the changing role of human operators, the onus of safety has shifted up the hierarchy and now lies at the organisations (read top-managers) to design and operate systems that can operate safely,” he explains.. Yet as Seetha Ram says, this doesn’t necessarily result in safer services: “Less of the human role doesn’t mean [the system is] infallible.. So high-speed rail drivers are trained on a simulator before they actually use the real vehicle,” he continues, adding that this training is now more sophisticated and potentially effective.