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    Britain’s railways are the safest in the EU, but with eight non-workforce fatalities in the year April 2022 to March 2023 (three in mainline stations and two at the platform-train interface), there is still much to be done to reduce risk.

    Dura Composites are providing a spotlight on efforts by the government, rail operators and manufacturers to increase safety, obtaining insights from industry bodies like Composites UK and British Transport Police. In this article, Tom Bowman, Commercial Director at Dura Composites, discusses why unlocking the power of composites holds the key to fast-tracking 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 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. This demonstrates a clear need to rethink the safety element of UK station platforms.


    Risk to Passengers & 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 putting 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, with alowance for the passage of freight trains, track maintenance and inspection adding to the complexities. 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 still 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 25 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, 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.