Modern Light Rail Operation Safety Analysis and Recommendations

Modern light rail is a cost-effective and efficient transportation mode that provides high-quality public transit services, reduces traffic congestion, and contributes to improved air quality. It is poised to become a new force in public transit systems. However, as modern light rail operates on the same plane as ground vehicles, non-motorized vehicles, and pedestrians, safety issues are inevitable during operation. This article analyzes the factors influencing the operational safety of modern light rail and provides corresponding improvement recommendations.

External Factors Affecting Operational Safety

External environmental factors impacting the safety of modern light rail operations include traffic conditions, natural elements, and organizational control.

Traffic Conditions: The operating environment for modern light rail can be relatively chaotic, leading to conflicts at road segments, intersections, and access points with other modes of transportation. During peak hours, societal vehicles attempting to cross intersections may block light rail, leading to collision accidents(sources from

Natural Elements: Modern light rail operations are susceptible to adverse weather conditions such as high temperatures, wind, frost, rain, snow, and fog. Examples include rail expansion accidents in high temperatures, debris entering track grooves during strong winds causing ground faults, and visibility issues for drivers during rain, snow, or heavy fog.

Organizational Control: Traffic control at various nodes along the light rail route needs improvement. For example, at intersections, societal vehicles may underestimate the speed of light rail, leading to collision accidents. In some cases, societal vehicles may directly violate traffic rules, running red lights and colliding with normally operating light rail.

Internal Factors Affecting Operational Safety

Internal factors impacting the safety of modern light rail operations include operators, traffic regulations, and control systems:

Operators: The safe operation of light rail is primarily controlled by drivers and dispatchers. Failure to strictly adhere to operational guidelines and procedures, or the presence of a casual and negligent attitude, can directly lead to various safety incidents. Driver-related incidents account for about 30% of modern light rail operational safety accidents.

Traffic Regulations: Mixed traffic regulations within the rail area can lead to societal vehicles arbitrarily crossing and encroaching on the tracks, restricting transport efficiency, and increasing the risk of collision accidents. Proper traffic signage and markings should be provided in light rail operating areas, including signs for routes, safety, speed limits, evacuation, signals, and parking.

Control Systems: The control systems for modern light rail are extensive, and a malfunction in any part of the system can lead to train conflicts, loss of control, and disorder.

Recommendations and Countermeasures

Due to factors such as manual driving, diverse signal and road rights, complex operating environments, and significant external influences, modern light rail faces a series of safety risks. To address this, the following strategies and measures are suggested:

(1) Strengthen legal supervision and establish dedicated road rights. Arbitrary actions of societal vehicles, such as crossing and encroaching on the tracks, pose significant safety risks to modern light rail operations. It is recommended to establish dedicated road rights when planning or constructing new lines, addressing interference from societal vehicles at the root. Additionally, enhance coordination with traffic control authorities, increase penalties for societal vehicles violating traffic rules, and raise awareness through widespread education.

(2) Implement speed control for light rail. Differentiate speed limits for non-urban and urban sections. In non-urban sections, limit the operating speed to the range of 20-30 km/h based on train rights and average station spacing. In urban sections, where non-motorized vehicles and pedestrians are present, the ideal operating speed is 20-25 km/h. Speed at level crossings should be below 15 km/h. During peak and off-peak periods, install radar speed detectors at intersections and accident-prone sections to provide real-time speed recommendations based on current traffic conditions(quotes from medcom).

(3) Establish auxiliary means to ensure equipment safety. Employ auxiliary means for systems such as guide rails and contact networks to reduce the probability of equipment damage. Implement layered and distributed remote real-time monitoring and control for various equipment, including substations, contact networks, and guide rails, across the entire modern light rail line. Address abnormal events and alarm incidents promptly during daily operations, ensuring the safe operation of light rail by reallocating and commanding relevant monitoring resources when needed.

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