Passenger, Pedestrian and Worker Safety in the Railroad Environment

Carl Berkowitz, Ph.D., PE, AICP, Transportation / RailRoad Safety Consultant ::::

The dimensions of passenger areas, such as train platforms, are a key factor in platform overcrowding, as well as the lack of stairway capacity that causes passengers to bunch at the access point to the stairs. After disembarking from the train, passengers surge toward the staircases and bunch around the area closest to the platform edge. This condition makes the platform increasingly hazardous because passengers become frustrated as they try to exit and are faced with queuing-related delays when they want to reach the stairs and exits.

The platform serves different functions during the departure and arrival of trains. For the arrival, the platform must have sufficient area and vertical access facilities for passengers to move through the area. During the departure, the platform serves as a storage area for passengers waiting for a train and as a movement space for passengers distributing themselves along the platform.

All passengers must step over the space between the platform and the vehicle. However, the platform area also serves other functions, including circulating along the platform, queuing at the platform edge while waiting for the next train, transferring between trains, waiting for the following train, queuing (stairways, escalators and elevators), and waiting at benches and information kiosks. The disruption of train service can, in addition, lead to unsafe overcrowding of the platform with the risk of passengers falling on to the tracks.

Because of this complex, and often conflicting characteristics, overcrowding on the platform easily creates potentially dangerous situations where passengers are crowded along the platform edge and in danger of falling onto the tracks. The station platform presents challenges for the circulation of passengers, including the fact that linear queues for stairways must mix with less flexible bulk queuing for boarding that may extend laterally across the platform. In addition, disembarking passengers compete with boarding passengers in the areas along the length of the platform, which coincides with the queuing space for the stairways. Furthermore, the platform serves the needs of loading and unloading (sometimes two platforms at the same time), and for the disabled, sidewalls and other references are not available for location and safety.

Carl Berkowitz, Ph.D., PE, AICP is a Transportation / Rail Road Safety Consultant with DJS Associates and can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.

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