Covid-19 Horizon Scan 1: Sanitisation and Social Distancing

The Covid-19 Horizon Scan seeks to identify and aggregate information, from across a variety of environments, on the technology responses being made to address the issues of sanitisation and social distancing. Future issues will continue this approach and also seek to identify any emerging scientific research and thinking of relevance to these two topics.

To make this scanning initiative as useful as possible to the industry, we are taking an open and collaborative approach. We welcome contributions from GB rail. Please let us know if you are working on these issues, or have identified items which you think would be relevant. We will acknowledge your organisation. Please contact Guy Yeomans (Principal – Horizon Scanning).


Items related to GB Rail and Rail responses from International Rail  are supported by a simple key which seeks to identify the area(s) for which the technology or stated response is most applicable:

  • MAINTENANCE (OS) – Open spaces, such as construction sites
  • MAINTENANCE (CS) – Closed spaces, such as depots 


Hand sanitisation

Responses from GB rail

Greater Anglia uses new ‘fogging guns’ to clean trains

Greater Anglia has invested in two “fogging guns” for spraying and sanitising large areas. They clean areas which are difficult to reach quickly and efficiently, using cleaning chemicals which kill different types of viruses. The machines can be used to clean trains at any depot, station or train stabling point on the Greater Anglia network. They could also be used, if necessary, in waiting rooms, offices, mess rooms or other railway buildings.

Railway Engineer – 4 May 2020 | TRAINS / STATIONS / MAINTENANCE (CL)

New handrail sterilization solution for escalators and moving walks 

EHC Global has produced a compact LED UVC Handrail Sterilization Module. It is mounted internally, which eliminates the risks and costs associated with entrapment (fingers, clothing, etc), damage caused by impact, vandalism, theft, unnecessary downtime, and the obstruction of ingress and egress access on escalators and moving walks.

Rail Technology Magazine - 6 May 2020 | STATIONS

Rethinking the design of public toilets

Suggestions for more hygienic public toilets include more sensor taps, fully self-cleaning cubicles, exits that don’t require human contact, and having bathroom attendants. New building codes may be necessary to ensure that future toilet designs comply with infection control measures.

The Guardian - 3 May 2020 | STATIONS

Responses from international rail

FRANCE - Cleaning measures employed in large French rail stations

SNCF Gares & Connexions has demonstrated the cleaning measures employed at large French rail stations, using Paris Gare de Lyon as an example. A virucide is used on all points where passengers’ hands come into contact with physical surfaces, such as lifts, escalators and self-service kiosks. The video (in French) shows cleaning staff being instructed in its use and being handed personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as procedures for intelligent waste bin processing and toilet cleaning.

SNCF Gares & Connexions – 8 May 2020 | STATIONS

RUSSIA - 3D printed attachments for train door handles allow doors to be opened with the elbow or lower arm

Russian Railways (RZD) is testing 3D printed attachments for train door handles on Desiro trains in the Moscow area. The parts are being trialled on driver cab doors and toilet doors, enabling them to be opened with the elbow or lower arm. It is not clear from the Siemens press release whether these are the only doors that the parts are intended for. (login required)

Siemens - 6 April 2020 (login required) | TRAINS

RUSSIA – HVAC and UV light systems

Ivolga EMUs, manufactured by TVZ, feature HVAC with an air-sanitising system. The passing air is treated with UV radiation before it is returned to the passenger area. However, there is currently no specific claim that UVC is able to destroy Covid-19. 

Railway News – 29 April 2020 | TRAINS

HONG KONG – Deploying cleaning robots

Rail Operator MTR is using cleaning robots to disinfect trains and stations. The robots spray vaporized hydrogen peroxide to deep clean trains, at a concentration which means the particles get into small spaces that would not be reached by normal cleaning work. The remote control robots take four hours to automatically clean an eight-car train. They can also be used to decontaminate staff areas and public lifts.

Railway Gazette – 11 March 2020 | TRAINS & STATIONS

Worldwide measures to restore confidence in rail travel

UIC has produced a report which describes measures, based on existing technologies, being implemented around the world to reduce the risk of spreading infection. Any of these would appear to be feasible for UK rail. They are broadly categorised as person-to-person measures and object-to-person measures. Person-to-person measures include temperature checks to identify passengers who may have a fever; questionnaires given to passengers regarding their health condition; providing masks and other facial coverings to passengers; providing sanitation gel (e.g. at station entrances); and new or adapted air conditioning systems, possibly including UV lamps. It is assumed that 1m or 2m distancing will not be feasible on trains; therefore, rail organisations may need to use multiple measures to ensure safety and passenger confidence. Some companies have developed protocols for a situation where a passenger becomes sick on a train (especially long-distance). Object-to-person measures include: increased cleaning/disinfection; promoting electronic ticket sales, e-tickets, and contactless tickets; and promoting non-cash payments (contactless credit/debit cards).|

International Union of Railways – April 2020 | TRAINS / STATIONS / MAINTENANCE (OS & CS)

Responses from other sectors

HOSPITALS - UV light robot destroys coronavirus in two minutes

Texas-based Xenex Disinfection Services recently announced a successful test of its LightStrike robot, which emits light of wavelengths between 200 and 315 nanometres. It has been shown to deactivate Covid-19 in just two minutes, providing a potentially effective method of removing the virus from public spaces.

Financial Times – 12 May 2020

BUS TRANSPORT - Bus disinfection through UV light

Chinese public transport company Yanggao is using UV light on bus interiors and exteriors as a way of disinfection. According to the company, the cleaning process is controlled remotely. It uses two converted cleaning rooms, each of which can disinfect up to 250 buses a day in a process that takes five to seven minutes per bus and kills more than 99.9 per cent of viruses.

Sustainable Bus – 1 April 2020

AIR TRANSPORT – The rise of sanitised travel 

SimpliFlying, a leading aviation marketing consulting firm, has produced a report providing a detailed customer journey map. It describes over 70 areas prospectively set to be affected due to coronavirus and, consequently, how the introduction of Covid-related technology responses by the airline sector may radically alter ideas about the future passenger experience.

Simpliflying – 28 May 2020

PUBLIC GATHERINGS - Saudi Arabia installs self-sterilisation gates

Saudi Arabia has installed “advanced self-sterilisation” gates at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. The gates, capable of assessing several people at the same time, sterilise people who pass through them with antiseptic spray, and are equipped with thermal cameras to detect temperatures from a distance of 6 metres. They complement the preventive and precautionary measures currently in place, which include the examination of all entrants to the mosque and the application of social distancing between the worshippers.

Arabian Business – 8th May 2020

Social Distancing

Social distancing

GB rail

Adapting a digital twin to help monitor social distancing 

OpenSpace is using its passenger flow monitoring system to study social distancing at King’s Cross Station. The technology, based on their previous digital twin implementation, is capable of measuring distances between people. It will be used to monitor adherence to social distancing and enable monitoring to be modified as lockdown measures change.

OpenSpace – 1 April 2020 | STATIONS

Responses from international rail

FRANCE - New signage and sanitation at Paris Gare de Lyon

A video (in French) posted by SNCF Gares & Connexions shows how Lyon Station has been transformed to encourage social distancing. This includes:
• Circles marked at 1.5 metre intervals on the station concourse in front of the platform gates
• Circles marked at 1.5 metre intervals along the platforms
• Large crosses marked on benches, chairs and tables to indicate that people should not sit at these spots
• Signs combining text and graphics to indicate that buttons (e.g. at lifts) should be pressed with an elbow rather than a finger
• Repetition of signage to reinforce the message
In addition to this signage, highly visible sanitizing gel dispensers are located inside the station, and passengers are required to wear facemasks in the station environment.

SNCF Gares & Connexions - 8 May 2020 | STATIONS

GERMANY - Driver sign-on system adapted for social distancing

Munich transport operator MVB has used Moveo Software to provide an updated duty registration system. This enables drivers to sign into work using mobile devices from their vehicle instead of using web-based terminal in a shared staff room.

Metro Report International – 17 April 2020 | TRAINS & MAINTENANCE (CS)

Responses from other sectors

TECHNOLOGY - New IoT Safe Distancing Assistant

Pathfindr, a Norwich-based Internet of Things (IoT) start-up, has rapidly developed a device to help workplaces meet social distance protocols. The Safe Distancing Assistant is lightweight and uses ultra-wideband, low power technology (3.5ghz radio TX frequency) to scan for nearby colleagues. The device, which can be deployed in any indoor or outdoor environment, provides a full 360-degree field of detection.

Insider Media – 13 May 2020

FACILITIES MANAGEMENT - Smart cameras to check social distancing and mask wearing 

Several technology companies are combining conventional security cameras with artificial intelligence to create social distancing surveillance systems. These identify crowd densities and ‘hotspots’ where people are getting too close to one another or not wearing masks. These could be used in offices and factories, supermarkets and retail stores.

Fast Company – 13 May 2020

URBAN SURVEILLANCE – Cameras to monitor masks and social distancing

A new system automatically alerts city authorities and police where breaches of face mask wearing and distancing rules are spotted, but does not perform facial recognition. The resort city of Cannes on the Côte d'Azur has trialled the monitoring software, developed by Datakalab, at outdoor markets and on buses.

BBC News - 04 May 2020

CONSTRUCTION – Reactec repurposes its wearable monitor to manage social distancing

Edinburgh-based Reactec has repurposed its Safedistance system for monitoring workers' exposure to health risk to create a tool to manage social distancing in the workplace. Safedistance is based on an industrial grade wrist-worn device, alerting workers if they have strayed to within two metres of a colleague. It also informs employers of the frequency and severity of breaches of social distancing protocols. The system can be expanded to enable real time intervention by a supervisor in the event of social distancing breaches. - 12 May 2020


BUS: social distancing-contact tracing app from the smart bus company Zeelo

Zeelo provides smart bus services. Its new software would provide real-time updates on passenger numbers for each route, allowing users to book knowing they will be two metres apart from the next passenger.
The technology would also enable contact tracing, so if a rider informs the company they are showing symptoms of the virus, fellow passengers who may have been travelling with them in the past can be alerted. It has also introduced personal protective equipment (PPE) for drivers, only uses the middle doors, and has a zero-contact policy.

The Loadstar (supply chain news website) - 6 May 2020

CONSTRUCTION – New auto-social-distancing wearable technology for road workers

DKN Capital and LociLabs have developed a new solution called SafeSpace, a social distancing tool that can be worn on the wrist or clipped to a belt. It provides real-time audible, visual and vibrating alerts when a device identifies another similar device within 2 metres of itself. Construction group Amey is one of the early adopters of this new technology for its highways, rail and waste collections sectors.

Traffic Technology Today – 11 May 2020

CONSTRUCTION – Interserve Construction trials new social distancing warning technology

As part of its development of the NHS Nightingale Hospital Birmingham, Interserve Construction deployed a new social distancing technology provided by SiteZone Safety. The personnel distancing system (PDS) includes a detection ‘tag’ that can be worn on a hard hat, attached to a belt or strapped to the upper arm which vibrates and sounds an alarm when configurable exclusion zones are breached.

Safer Highways - 30 April 2020

PORTS - Antwerp port trials smart bracelet for social distancing

A repurposed smart proximity ‘wearable’ device can help workers at the port keep the required distance apart by giving warning signals if they come too close to each other. The device, made by Belgian company Rombit, is currently being tested with operative teams. - 24 April 2020

HAULAGE – Canopy aids social distancing

Nottinghamshire-based haulage company Farrell Transport invested in an all-weather canopy before the pandemic, originally intended to improve efficiency and increase protection for drivers and freight. Since March the canopy - uniquely-curved and standing without internal supports - has enabled greater outdoor operation. This helps with social distancing, and reduces staff exposure to internal spaces, which may be poorly ventilated.

The Loadstar (supply chain news website) – 17 April 2020

Haven’t found what you’re looking for?
Get in touch with our Principal – Horizon Scanning expert for further information.
Guy Yeomans
Tel: 020 3142 5627
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