Where to Start with Risk Assessment at the Platform Train Interface

The Platform Train Interface (PTI) continues to present risk to passengers. For example, in 2018/2019 there were seven fatalities at the platform edge. To reduce passenger harm at the PTI it is essential to better understand the range of risks present, what causes them, who is at risk and how these risks can be controlled. Risk assessment allows us to do this.

What to assess at the PTI?

The PTI covers:

  1. The length and width of the platform
  2. The length, height and width of the train up to the bodyside furthest from the platform
  3. Trains stopped, arriving, departing or passing through the platform without stopping,
  4. When no train is present at the platform
  5. Electrification systems, or live train mounted electrical equipment

These PTI variations are illustrated in the diagrams below. 

Figure 1: Parameters of the PTI with train in platform

Figure 2: Parameters of the PTI with no train in platform

There are a range of different risks to passengers and staff. These are comprised of high likelihood, but low severity hazardous events (such as slips, trips and falls) and low likelihood, but high severity hazardous events (such as dragging, falling from the platform and being struck by the train).

There are three common risk assessments used to understand these risks and identify suitable controls:

  • Platform safety and train dispatch risk assessment – identifies the range of risk present at the PTI. It is used to determine appropriate train dispatch processes and measures to manage the safe behaviour of passengers at the PTI.
  • Aerodynamic risk assessment – assess the aerodynamic risk caused by passing trains and determine suitable measures to control this risk.
  • Crossfall risk assessment – helps understand the risk posed to passengers of sloping platforms. This is especially relevant for passengers with pushchairs or those in wheelchairs.

How to assess risk at the PTI?

Whilst the format and application of risk assessments can vary, the fundamental principles are always the same. In every risk assessment, the aim is to make a safe decision. That is, determine risk controls that reduce or eliminate the risk so far as is reasonably practicable and then monitor and review these to be sure they are effective.

It is also a legal obligation for all duty holders. Under The Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations (2006) and the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) duty holders are required to provide a safe operating environment that is informed by risk assessment. In the context of the PTI, this requires the completion of a risk assessment for each platform and using the results to help ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that passengers are able to safely board and alight trains and wait on platforms.

The term so far as is reasonably practicable is used because it is understandable that it is not always possible or practical to eliminate the source of all risks that are identified. This means that the level of risk identified, and the benefit achieved by controlling that risk should be balanced against the financial, resources and practical costs of implementing the measure. If there is a balance, then that would be considered reasonably practicable. If the balance is grossly disproportionate, for example the cost grossly outweighs the safety benefit, then this would be considered not reasonably practicable.

Read the Taking Safe Decisions framework which provides guidance on this.

To achieve this, the following steps are typically taken:


Plan the assessment

  • Define what is being assessed. 
  • Identify who is competent to complete the assessment.
  • Decide on who else should be consulted on the assessment e.g. other operators, station staff etc.
  • If more than one assessment is required, create a prioritisation plan

Identify risks

  • What activities, processes or features could create risk?
  • Review previous accident data to see if there are trends that might highlight a risk.
  • Look for risks that might not be immediately obvious e.g. the effect of noise levels on long-term health.
  • Who could be at risk from harm? Some examples are: 
    • Passengers (and specific demographics e.g. the elderly)
    • Groups with specific legislation (e.g. pregnant women, individuals with impairments)
    • Station staff and dispatch staff
    • Contractors
    • Wider public

Evaluate risks and implement controls

  • How likely is it that harm will occur? What would be the severity?
  • Are we doing everything reasonably practicable to control the risk? Or could the risk be further reduced or eliminated?
  • What controls currently exist, how effective are they and what else can be in place?
  • How often should the hazard and controls be reviewed? (The higher the risk, the more often).

Record assessment results. These should include:

  • Significant findings
  • People involved
  • Reason for the assessment
  • Actions 
  • Timescales 

The records should be simple and clear so others can understand them.

Monitor and review 

  • Has there been significant changes to the environment, tasks or processes that may create new risks or effect current controls?
  • What does staff and customer feedback tell you about risk and the effectiveness of your controls?
  • Is there new learning from data, incidents or wider industry that means a review of the risk assessment would be sensible?
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