EU engineers are looking into seat, tables and other interior equipment materials that have a lower tendency to spread flame, with lower smoke toxicity. This is a special concern as they look for additional padding on seats and other interior equipment. Within the United States, strict NFPA fire standards have already been incorporated into the designs of rail vehicles.
EU engineers have studied past accident scenarios and have analyzed the effect of windows upon passenger fatalities and serious injury. Considering the results of the studies, they have had two primary concerns:
- Prevention of passenger ejection when windows break.
- Prevention of foreign debris from entering the passenger compartment when cars leave the right-of-way, saw tooth buckle and turn over.
In the event of an emergency, the EU designers have determined that it is best for passengers to remain within the confines of a vehicle until first responders arrive. This is the case if the car structures are sound and there is no fire or smoke.
Therefore they have determined:
- Hard glass windows must be impervious to hard projectiles that may be thrown against them during a collision/derailment.
- The windows must contain passengers. They must be persuaded not to exit through windows. Doors must be used for exit when available.
- Windows must provide egress as a last resort, and must enable entry by first responders.
The Eno team noted that within the United States, a different approach has been taken concerning window designs on long-distance and commuter rail cars. Several windows within each rail car must serve as passenger emergency escape routes. Handles are placed on these window frames, and can be utilized to remove the window molding so that windows can be removed. These handles must be present on both the interior of the cars for passenger access, and on exteriors for access by first responders. Escape windows must be clearly marked.
Doors are important on a rail vehicle because they provide a means of egress in the event of an emergency. As noted earlier, EU engineers are concentrating on strengthening the integrity of the car structure around door areas to ensure that they are not deformed in the event of a crash. Any deformations in the side and end door operating areas could inhibit the sliding action of the doors.
New designs include clear signage of luminescent materials that direct passengers how to operate doors in the event of an emergency where the electrical power is lost. On new cars, special emergency handles are being placed alongside doors with clear instructions for use. There are also buttons for direct communication with the train's crewmembers.
These ideas are also being incorporated into the designs of commuter rail, heavy rail and light rail transit in the United States.
EU engineers have given considerable attention to new emergency lighting technology. Studies of past accidents have determined that emergency lighting is essential to calm the fears of passengers who have been involved in the traumatic experience of a wreck. Passengers will be reassured by a well-illuminated car interior, and will have less of a tendency to panic. It is preferred that passengers remain aboard vehicles and await first responders. An illuminated interior will provide a greater sense of safety than one that is totally dark. Illumination may persuade passengers to remain aboard for assistance. Well-placed emergency lighting fixtures must also direct passengers to available exits when evacuation is essential.
Illumination will also help to reduce additional injuries to passengers as they negotiate vehicle interiors that may be clogged with debris and damaged structural areas. They determined that emergency lighting must be reliable, and have the following characteristics:
- Robust. Fixtures must survive all forces exhibited in a crash.
- Self-contained energy source.
- Must provide uniformity of lighting — no bright and shaded areas.
- Very low voltage, amperage draw.
- Emergency light must last a minimum of three hours.
Researchers investigated the utilization of light emitting diode (LED) technology for a new generation of emergency lighting. LEDs are low voltage, low amperage lights that are capable of emitting a bright light over an extended period of time.