Enhancing UK Railway Safety by Dura Composites

Promoted-Britain’s railways are the safest in the EU, but with ten station fatalities in 2018/19, there is still much to be done to reduce risk. Tom Bowman of Dura Composites discusses why unlocking the power of composites holds the key to accelerating improvements to the platform train interface.


According to the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), incidents at the platform train interface (PTI) account for almost half of the total passenger fatality risks on the mainline railway network, and about one-fifth of the overall passenger fatality and weighted injury (FWI) risk. To manage this risk, the PTI must be acknowledged as a fundamental part of the railway system and should form an integral part of all current and future design, build and remedial works – rather than be seen as a standalone issue.

The gap is growing

As reported this week by Graeme Paton, Transport Correspondent for The Times, the gap between the UK’s trains and platforms is getting bigger, with the introduction of thousands of new carriages resulting in a growing gap for passengers trying to board and disembark.

There were ten fatalities at stations in 2018/19, which is higher than the recent average. Seven of these involved the platform edge, as at Wimbledon on 25 July 2018, when a passenger fell and was struck by a departing train.

At Ponders End three days later, a similar event occurred as a passenger was leaning over the platform edge, and this week’s media has also been awash with terrifying footage of a 4-year-old boy slipping between the train and platform at a Sydney railway station.

Risk to passengers and the public

With over 4.7 million rail journeys made in the UK every day, the stations where people start and end their journeys are a key focus for improvements to safety and accessibility.  Mark Atkinson, chief executive at disability charity Scope has noted that 40% of disabled people experience problems using trains and on 8th July 2019 the government announced that it was opening a £20m fund for accessibility improvements which are designed to reduce hazards for disabled passengers.

But risk at the PTI is not limited to passengers. Members of the public, visiting stations for reasons other than travel such as shopping, socialising, or meeting passengers are also affected by PTI-related risk. Recent research has shown that modern day distractions and general carelessness means that the public are unwittingly put themselves at risk on train platforms – and the RSSB’s new Respect the Edge campaign aims to raise awareness of the potential dangers.

Key areas of PTI risk include:

-Legacy platforms that do not conform to the current standard
-Varied Rolling Stock, stepping distances and heights
-Lack of suitable disability access
-Crowding on platforms within stations
-An ageing population
-Distractions – the increase in use and dependency on technology
-Improper footwear
-The effects of adverse weather

But, with more than 7,000 new carriages set to be introduced by 2021 to replace ageing rolling stock and accommodate growing passenger numbers – educating passengers on the risks is only half the story. The onus is on the rail industry itself to design-out the risk wherever possible.

Designing out the risk

Dura Composites’ Commercial Director Tom Bowman believes the answer lies in accelerating the adoption of advanced Glass Reinforced Polymer (GRP) composites which can be easily deployed as anti-slip and height-adjustable platform surfaces to accommodate the new rolling stock and improve overall safety.

As reported in The Times, station design guidance states that platforms should ideally be 73cm to 74.5cm from the tracks and 89cm to 91.5cm high and that the total gap between the train doors and platform should not exceed 20cm. But in reality, hundreds of Victorian platform installations are out of gauge with these requirements, leaving Network Rail with a real challenge.

After more than a century of heavy use, they now require replacement or refurbishment as they reach the end of their service life, and have the added complexity of needing to also allow for the passage of freight trains and maintenance access for track inspection. Traditionally, remedial works to ageing out of gauge platforms using materials such as concrete can require long possessions and Road Rail Vehicles are required for the transportation of associated materials. Even when concrete is used, there has till been no easy solution to fixing the problem of stepping distances between the train and the platform when subsidence means they have become out of gauge. Until now.

 With 23 years’ experience in designing and manufacturing cutting edge composites, Dura Composites’ strategy for improving the passenger train interface has been to create market-leading composite solutions for the rail industry which are designed to reduce incidents and accidents through clever features such as anti-slip surfaces and height adjustable capabilities, and which can be installed efficiently and cost effectively across the network.

Dura Platform allows contractors to replace or overlay onto damaged or subsided platforms a low maintenance, modular, lightweight, height adjustable structure that enhances safety with anti-slip surface options, in-built water management, integral lines, integral lighting, snow melting capability and that has similar or lower overall project costs than concrete. The panels have three patented features which make them unique in the marketplace and have been deployed in a wide range of station environments.

Network Rail, working in partnership with Northern and TransPennine Express, recently completed a vital project at Marsden railway station to fix what was termed by passengers as a “danger platform” with an astonishing 18in (45cm) step from the train to platform that had caused passengers problems for years.

Improvements costing £350,000 included the deployment of Dura Platform and were carried out by railway specialists Hammond ECS Ltd working for rail operator Northern.  Raising the platform with Dura Composites’ simple overlay solution has resulted in the removal of the need for single door operation, the process where only one set of doors on the train open, making boarding and alighting the train much easier and reducing congestion.

Chris Nutton, Major Projects Director for TransPennine Express, commented: “We are pleased that work to raise the height of the platform is now complete. We have responded to customer feedback and this will make it easier for customers to comfortably get on and off our trains.”

 Unlocking the power of composites for your rail project

Dura Platform is an excellent choice for both new build and refurbishment projects and can span up to an industry-leading 3.2m clear span.

Saving Time:

As Dura Platform can be installed rapidly by skilled contractors, it requires fewer possessions compared to a conventional re-build approach and allows for work to be carried out at difficult locations where a more traditional approach would be prohibitive.

Saving Money:

The overall outlay cost is less than a traditional re-build approach, and adjustments can be made quickly and easily to suit the requirements of future rolling stock.

Dramatically improved lifecycle

Dura Platform has a design life in excess of 60 years, making it a truly future-proof solution. There are many clever features of the product that allow it to be tailored to the site conditions. The hidden fixing system minimises trip hazards, and the platform is also crank-able to create an instant 1:40 fall to manage drainage. A solid surface on the 600mm plank removes the need for longitudinal cover plates to cover the fixings and provides a uniform, aesthetically pleasing finish.

Low Maintenance & Anti Slip

Not only is the composite surface incredibly low maintenance, but additions such as the yellow tactile integrated with the platform edge have practically eliminated the ongoing cost of platform edge painting.

Dura Platform (40 and 100) achieves above a 55PVT value in both wet and dry conditions, making it an ideal way to help mitigate the increased number if slip, tip and fall injuries which have occurred at UK stations over the past year.

For more advice and technical information on utilising Dura Platform for your station project, or to find out more about our other ground-breaking rail solutions, call us today on +44 1255 440291, or visit the website at: http://www.duracomposites.com/rail.

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