Cause for alarm on passenger trains

Investigation on train fires shows lack of stringent requirements

Approximately 66 percent of the trains that make up the backbone of DSB's intercity lines either have smoke alarms that do not work or simply do not have any at all.

The findings are the result of an investigation by Havarikommissionen, the Accident Investigation Board (AIB), into 125 fires on board the 140 intercity trains during a period of five years, reports Ingeniøren.

Ninety of the fires that occurred between July 2009 and December 2013 took place on the 96 IC3 diesel trains in operation, while the remainder took place on the 44 ER electric trains.

In its investigation, the AIB discovered that the fire recording and notification system on the diesel trains only worked in 47 percent of the cases.

Lax requirements
Currently there is no requirement for the trains to have fire alarms. None of the 44 electric trains have alarms, and half the alarms on the 96 diesel trains no longer work.

Additionally, the AIB report indicates that the material stored under the train floors are neither classified or risk-assessed in regards to fire, which is problematic as a typical electric train carries more than 850 litres of oil in its undercarriage.

When passenger trains pass through tunnels longer than five kilometres, there are several security requirements the vehicle must meet, including having fire detectors, communications systems, emergency lighting, escape routes and safety procedures for driving while the train is on fire.

However, the requirements only apply to trains built after 2008, meaning that Danish trains are excluded because they are too old.

Clear recommendations
AIB has recommended that Trafikstyrelsen, the Transport Authority, and DSB should re-evaluate the need for fire and smoke detection systems on its trains.

DSB has instituted other detection measures to prevent the risk of train fires, including improving maintenance procedures on oil leaks and checking bearing damage to ensure that its outer ring does not become loose – a problem that has caused some of the fires on the electric trains.

The company has also informed AIB that the requirements are being ”gradually implemented on existing railway vehicles”.

Additionally, for trains that  pass through tunnels, the company will be requiring the installation of smoke detectors in passenger areas, toilets, technical installation spaces and areas of high energy use.