Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Keeping Track of Safety; Cutting Impact of Terror Bomb Train Attacks

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Keeping Track of Safety; Cutting Impact of Terror Bomb Train Attacks

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson Environment Editor ? 0191 201 6224 ? tony.henderson@ncjmedia.co.uk

THE North East is leading a project to make train carriages better able to withstand terrorist bomb attacks.

Headed by Conor O'Neill in the NewRail research centre at Newcastle University, the three-year operation has focussed on containing the impact of a blast and reducing flying debris, which is the main cause of death and injury in an explosion and the key obstacle for emergency services trying to reach passengers.

Analysing the carriages involved in the London Underground bombings, the team of experts from four EU countries has re-designed current vehicles and has just completed full-scale tests on a prototype.

Mr O'Neill, based in the School of Mechanical and Systems Engineering at Newcastle University, said: "The Madrid bombings in 2004 and the 7/7 attack in London the year after highlighted how vulnerable trains are to attack - particularly busy metro and commuter trains.

"At the same time we have to be realistic - completely replacing existing vehicles isn't an option. Instead, we have developed and incorporated new technology and materials into existing carriages to improve performance. "What we've shown is that companies could make relatively cost-effective and simple modifications that would significantly improve the outcome of an attack.

"This is a unique project not least for the sheer scale of the testing we have done.

"We have concentrated on metro vehicles because large volumes of people use them, but the technologies also apply to local passenger and high speed national trains."

In a controlled, full-scale explosion on a decommissioned metro carriage, the team measured the impact that a terrorist attack can have.

Understanding the progression of the blast wave as it travels the length of the coach was key to understanding how the interior furnishings reacted.

Filming the explosion - which takes less than a second - the team used high-speed cameras to slow down the blast footage in order to understand the mechanics of the explosion. …

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