Interviews

31.10.13

Making stations more secure

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Oct/Nov 2013

The SecureStation project is looking at how to reduce the risks of general crime, fire, and terrorist attacks, and has been getting public views on the acceptability and intrusiveness of proposed security measures. RTM talked to Dr Emma Carter of the Mechanical Engineering Rail Research team at the University of Sheffield, one of the co-researchers on the Europe-wide project.

Architects, structural engineers, defence specialists, risk management consultants, academics and transport operators have been working together since June 2011 on the EU SecureStation project, which seeks to produce research and guidelines for the construction, maintenance, refurbishment and operation of railway stations to minimise the risk from crime and terrorism.

The main products of the three-year project are a standardised risk assessment methodology and a design handbook, and it has involved original research on issues like the flow of air and fumes in station environments, modelling pedestrian behaviour during evacuation, and shock waves from explosions.

The latest phase has been a public survey to get people’s views on certain security measures, especially those that may be seen as more intrusive or inconvenient.

Dr Emma Carter, one of the project’s researchers from the University of Sheffield’s ME Rail Research team, alongside principal investigator Dr David Fletcher and Dr Jon Paragreen, told RTM: “We need to get buy-in from the infrastructure managers and from the transport operators. Essentially, they are commercial outfits, so if people stop using public transport because they don’t like the measures being implemented, that’s obviously going to effect the operators’ bottom lines. We need to find out how acceptable certain security measures are to the public.

“Although it’s easy to assume any measure is worth taking if it increases passenger security, the reality is that a balance has to be found to improve security while avoiding disproportionate impact on people’s daily journeys.”

Talking of the risk assessment methodology, she explained: “[It] allows people to assess risks at their particular station, depending on the type of station, capacity and location, for example. The perceived level of risk for a particular station could influence what additional security and resilience measures are implemented.

“The design handbook itself points at things they need to look at and think about, from fire prevention to blast resistance, perimeter security, architecture, internal layout, lighting and ventilation systems. A lot of it will be high-level, general guidance but there will also be some more detailed guidelines for engineers, like advice on preventing progressive collapse for example. There are some standards and design guidelines out there already, but not specifically for security in railway stations in Europe. This is bringing together the best of the guidelines specifically addressing rail transport.

“It is addressing the terrorism issue, but a lot of the guidance would have benefits for petty crime issues: open layouts, architecture, lighting, CCTV for example. Some of those measures would also help deter lower-level crime.

“Hopefully it will influence UK and European station design. Some of the people taking part in the project are those who’d actually use these kinds of measures.

“Some of it is brand new research; there’s modelling work being done looking specifically at explosions, gases and ventilation systems, looking at how smoke spreads in station environments, and on pedestrian flow in evacuations, for example. So there’s some original research going into the guidelines and some existing knowledge and best practice.”

Asked about some of the individual measures proposed, Dr Carter noted that the “sheer volume of passengers” would make individual screening very difficult, but said laminated windows and perimeter security (bollards) are very effective measures. “They prevent vehicles getting close to the building,” she said. “The force of an explosion drops off very dramatically with distance. Another metre can make a huge difference.”

Her colleague Dr Fletcher said: “Changes to increase security often go unnoticed by the public, but some can be more intrusive, perhaps bringing delay or a loss of privacy.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

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