Technological advances have produced a new spectrum of white light that can be clearly seen. Fixture lenses disburse light uniformly over a wide area. Because of their low current draw LEDs will remain illuminated for long periods of time on battery-generated power. Fixtures can be manufactured utilizing hard plastic which makes them robust against external forces. Because of these attributes, designers have determined that self-contained LED fixtures are ideal for emergency lighting in EU rail vehicles. LED units can be installed in the interiors of new cars. Because of their self-contained power supply, the fixtures can also be installed in older cars without the expense, man-hours and maintenance entailed with wiring installations.
The incorporation of LED technology into cars in the United States is being considered.
EU engineers have also looked at chemical technology and the development of luminescent striping and signage to assist passengers in rail vehicles in the event that electrical emergency lighting totally fails and the interior is left in darkness. Strips can provide a low level of lighting in the passenger compartment, and guide passengers toward emergency exits. Luminescent signs can provide critical information concerning vehicle exiting, the activation of emergency doors and other emergency apparatus. This technology is presently being installed in new railroad and metro vehicles throughout the EU.
Members of the Eno study team discussed the implementation of luminescent technology into Amtrak and commuter rail rolling stock in the United States. It was noted that the MARC train collision was a catalyst within the U.S. rail industry in this regard. The lessons learned during this event included the critical importance of passengers to have access to window and door safety exits, and the importance of outfitting cars with illuminated signs and strips that effectively direct passengers to these exits. Luminescent signs and strips must be visible for an extended period of time in a dark atmosphere where vision may be inhibited by dust and smoke.
Paul J. Messina is superintendent of Rail Investigations, Office of System Safety, MTA New York City Transit, and chair of the APTA Rolling Stock Equipment Technical Forum.