Person boarding the train over the gap

‘Mind the Gap’ – derived in London, used by transit systems worldwide

Issues, requirements and solutions for the railway network

Recently the Architecture & Access team completed CPD (Continuing Professional Development) on a subject that probably has affected us all at some stage. Luckily for most of us it isn’t a problem to step or hop over the gap. If you have a disability, minding the gap is not as simple as this.

In this article we discuss the issues with the gap, the requirements for Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (DSAPT), influencing factors, local solutions, and considerations.

The saying ‘Mind the Gap’ dates to the 1960s when it was first announced on the London Underground. The purpose was to warn passengers of the potentially dangerous gap between straight train cars and curved platforms in some stations, or when the train door and platform are not at the same height.

In Australia there are thousands of station platforms where passengers boarding trains need to ‘’mind the gap” between the platform and the public transport conveyance. The gap is a key challenge for the public transport rail system.

The gap can present many issues and create a significant problem for passengers and for the operating bodies responsible for managing the public transport system. The issues can include:

  • Slip, trip and falls risk.
  • An amplified risk for people with a disability, elderly, and children, when stepping up or over the gap
  • A barrier to accessibility

On Melbourne’s rail network, 12 months of data in 2015 recorded 50 slips, trips, or falls into the gaps between trains and platforms. This is a major cause of passenger injuries and fatalities. The gap issue is not unique to Australia, in New Zealand, United Kingdom, USA and Europe, rail operators all face the same challenges. The DSAPT legislation requires an equitable method of boarding to be provided by the operator when the gap dimension is exceeded, or when required by a passenger.

DSAPT requirements – Part 8 BOARDING

8.2 When boarding devices must be provided

  1. A manual or power assisted boarding device must be available at any accessible entrance to a conveyance that has:
    1. A vertical rise or gap exceeding 12mm (AS/NZS3856.1 (1998) Clause 2.1.7 (f)); or
    1. A horizontal gap exceeding 40mm (AS/NZS3856.1 (1998) Clause 2.1.8 (g))

There are other influencing factors to consider, these include:

  • Age of the rail infrastructure
  • Carriage design including suspension, wheel size and door position.
  • Shared freight, passenger, and metropolitan services – the gap is required to accommodate these different types of services as they pass through the station.
  • Wear and tear to the track, wheels, or platform
  • Trains are moving objects – the gap protects the train from damaging the platform as it moves through the station.
  • Speed of train (more sway) – the gap protects passengers from fast moving trains coming too close to the platform.
  • Radius of track and platforms – the gap increases the more curved the platform edge is in relation to a straight train interface.
  • Legislative requirements.

Research has been conducted to find suitable solutions for the gap. These include:

  • Platform-train interface for rail passengers – technology review Raman et al, 2012 Centre for Rail Innovation CRC (An Australian Government Initiative)
  • Evaluating accessibility provisions for existing rail station platforms in Melbourne, Australia Moug et al, 2016 Monash University

When developing workable solutions within railway networks there are many considerations including:

  • Delays to train operating times.
  • Demands on staff for deployment of boarding devices.
  • Ease of overall operation.
  • Increasing costs.
  • Ongoing maintenance and durability.
  • Surface materials – ensure slip resistant materials are used on ramps and these are rated to wet conditions.
  • Accessibility outcomes that can be achieved within the existing environmental constraints.
  • Location of wheelchair spaces in carriages.
  • Location and size of boarding areas on platforms for mobility devices.
  • Ability to retrofit into existing environments.
  • Suitability for various scenarios, for example, varied platform heights and train types.
  • Size and weight of mobility devices and users.

Back in time – “Mind the Gap.”

The first recorded voice was sound engineer Peter Lodge, and over the years other famous Brits like writer and voice artist Emma Clarke (Bakerloo, Central and District lines) and actor Tim Bentinck (Piccadilly line) have lent their voice to the recordings. Based on a true story, this touching short film called ‘Mind the Gap’ is about the widow of one of the original voice recordings that can still be heard today at the Embankment station on the Northern line.

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