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Passenger behaviour at the Platform Train Interface

The risk to passengers at the Platform Train Interface (PTI) is equivalent to nearly 13 fatalities each year. One key way to reduce this risk is to understand how passengers behave and interact in the railway environment. What factors influence their behaviour and decision making? This knowledge will help us create targeted strategies to reduce unsafe behaviours and conditions at the PTI.

What type of incidents can occur?

PTI incidents can occur when there is a train in the platform and when there isn't. In fact, the level of risk for both situations is about the same. However, the types of incident are different. 
When there is a train in the platform, or approaching or departing, incidents can include:

  • a slip, trip or fall when boarding or alighting
  • a fall between the platform and train
  • being trapped in the doors
  • being trapped in the doors and dragged by the train.

When there is no train, incidents can include:

  • a fall from the platform onto track
  • being hit by a passing train when leaning over the platform edge
  • falling from the platform and being hit by a passing train
  • falling from the platform and being electrocuted.

What behaviours can increase risk?

Although the types of incidents are different, there is a common set of behaviours that can increase the risk of these incidents. The most common behaviours to look out for among people include:

  • being too close to the platform edge
  • being unsteady on their feet
  • appearing distracted, or showing a lack of awareness of their surroundings
  • appearing confused or looking lost in the station or on the platform
  • late boarding or alighting when the train doors are closing
  • looking for, or retrieving, an item near the platform edge
  • leaning on the train
  • messing around on the platform
  • running or rushing
  • struggling with luggage.

How do different passenger behave?

Every passenger has a unique set of characteristics, which drives their behaviour and decision making. Some seem to be more associated with PTI incidents than others. These are listed below. It is important to understand the type of passengers who use your service, so that you can create interventions to keep them safe.

Infrequent travellers

  • Often carrying luggage, which may act as a trip hazard and make boarding and alighting harder.
  • Can be unfamiliar with the station and platform environment, which means they may get confused or unsure which platform and train they need.
  • Can exhibit unsafe behaviours without realising it, as they are unfamiliar with the platform environment. For example, they may hold open the doors for passengers, which can increase the risk of door trappings.

Commuters and regular travellers

  • Often travel at peak times. The large number of commuters can create crowds and congestion which in turn may cause passengers to stand closer to the platform edge.
  • You may see running, or late boarding or alighting.
  • Often have routine patterns of behaviour when commuting. This can mean they become less aware of the risks related with the railway, as they are very familiar with their surroundings. This may also cause them to ignore or not notice key safety messages.

Sports fans

  • Will travel around a specific event. Are likely to be in groups, which can create crowds. This may cause passengers to stand closer to the platform edge.
  • Sometimes intoxicated, which is associated with many PTI incidents.
  • If there are rival sports fans in the station or on the platform then there can be aggression. This can cause thoughtless actions on the platform, and put other passengers at risk. 
  • Can be unfamiliar with the station and platform environment which means they may get confused or unsure which platform and train they need.

Festival or concert goers

  • Will be traveling to a specific event and likely to be in groups, which can create crowds. This may cause passengers to stand closer to the platform edge.
  • Sometimes intoxicated, which is associated with many PTI incidents.
  • If they are travelling to a festival then are likely to be carrying large amounts of luggage. This can create trip hazards and make people unsteady on their feet.  It can also make boarding and alighting harder.
  • Can be unfamiliar with the station and platform environment which means they may get confused or unsure which platform and train they need.

Intoxicated passengers

  • Often unsteady on their feet, which can increase risk of falling on the platform, off the platform, or when boarding or alighting the train.
  • Can be less aware of their behaviours, their surroundings, and the risks related to the railway. This means they can be more likely to exhibit behaviours that can put them at risk.
  • Can sometimes become aggressive, putting themselves and others at risk.
  • Can be confused or unsure which platform and train they need.

Families 

  • Can be unfamiliar with the station and platform environment, which means they may get confused or unsure which platform and train they need.
  • Can be have prams and pushchairs, which can cause trip hazards and make boarding and alighting harder,
  • Will often have children with them. This may cause a distraction. Children could also be closer to the platform edge than they should be or they may play around on the platform, as they will be much less aware of risks related to the railway.

Elderly or impaired passengers

  • Sometimes will be using wheelchairs or mobility scooters. This will mean they need help boarding and alighting, and may need to do this at specific points on the platform.
  • Sometimes have visual or hearing impairments. This can affect their ability to see or hear announcements, signage, platform markings or customer information.
  • May have reduced mobility, and may be unsteady on their feet. 
  • Can be unfamiliar with the station and platform environment, which means they may get confused or unsure which platform and train they need.

What do passengers think?  

Passengers cannot and should not be expected to understand how the railway works and all the risks to the same degree as staff. In fact, passengers may have quite a different view of the railway, based on their experiences of travelling to and from their destinations. For example, a commonly held belief is that train doors operate in a similar way to lift doors. Thinking that doors automatically reopen when something is trapped between them. Passengers may not immediately attempt to pull themselves free when trapped in the doors. They are unlikely to be aware that the doors may not be able to detect small, thin objects that have become trapped. 

Passengers may also perceive risk differently, because for the majority of people travelling on the railway has been and will be safe. For example, research conducted for RSSB revealed that passengers do not recognise that some activities at the PTI present a genuine risk of severe injury. Those activities include dropping something on the track and retrieving it, standing too close to the edge of the platform or making contact with the outside of the train while it is moving. 

Some behaviours that can increase risk at the PTI are also seen as socially acceptable. This is probably because they are seen or done on many occasions without incident—and in some cases can be seen as necessary. Examples include running along the platform to catch a train and standing too close to the platform edge.

When thinking about how to keep passengers safe, it is important to consider the passengers' perspective and put yourself in their shoes. 

What about the railway environment? 

Passengers use the railway environment to help understand their surroundings, plan their travel, make decisions on their movement around the station, platform and train. To some extent they will also decide what are safe and unsafe behaviours. So, the rail environment has a big impact. It should be used to promote safe behaviours and decision making to support safe travel. 

Example environmental factors to consider include:

  • station, platform and train design
  • provision of customer information on the station, train and platform
  • staff interactions on the train, station and platform
  • signage and markings.

Remember that the behaviours you see at the PTI are often the result of decisions and actions taken before the passenger reaches the PTI. This means there are often a number of chances to influence passengers' behaviour before they reach the PTI. You should think about the entire passenger journey to fully understand behaviours and decision making. This means thinking about how passengers behave and make decisions:

  • before entering the station
  • when in the station
  • when on the platform 
  • while boarding the train and then when on the train
  • when alighting the train
  • exiting the station or connecting to another service.

Taking this approach will help to reveal many different opportunities to influence the behaviour and decision of passengers before they reach the PTI. There is a more detailed explanation of the passenger journey, and potential strategies to influence passenger behaviours in the next article: Ways to influence passenger behaviour at the Platform Train Interface.

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