Technical Reports

Fire Safety of Passenger Trains: A Review of U.S. and Foreign Approaches

  • 01
  • Dec
  • 1993
AUTHOR: Federal Railroad Administration; R.D. Peacock; R.W. Bukowski; W.J. Jones; P.A. Reneke; V. Babrauskas; J.E.Brown
SUBJECT: Safety Advisories, Safety Regulatory Analysis, Safety Performance Measures
KEYWORDS: Fire safety, Passenger trains, Passenger rail, Railroad safety, Safety, High speed ground transportation, High speed rail, Large scale fire tests, Small scale fire tests, Fire test methods
ABSTRACT: While the historical record has been very good and few serious passsenger train fires have occurred, minor incidents could develop into potentially life-threatening events. Fire safety is an area of particular interest for both conventional intercity and commuter trains, as well as new high-speed train technologies. These technologies include steel-wheel on rail and magnetic levitation (maglev) systems. In 1989, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published fire safety guidelines which address the flammability and smoke characteristics of materials used in intercity and commuter passenger cars. Recent advances in fire test methods and hazard analysis techniques necessitate re-examination of fire safety requirements for passenger trains. Several studies have indicated almost random ability of current tests to predict actual fire behavior. Fire safety in any application, including transportation systems, requires a multi-faceted systems approach. The effects of vehicle design, material controls, detection and suppression systems, and emergency egress/access on the overall fire safety of the particular transportation system must all be considered. This report presents a detailed comparison of fire safety approaches used for passenger trains in the United States, France and Germany. Strengths and weaknesses of current methods for measuring the fire performance of rail transportation systems are presented. An optimum systems approach to fire safety which addresses typical passenger train fire scenarios is analyzed. A major conclusion is that fire hazard and fire risk assessment methods supported by measurement based on heat release rate (HRR) provide a means to better predict real world fire behavior.
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