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May 5, 2015

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Heathrow Express installs platform gap-fillers

Heathrow Express (HEx) has become the first rail company in the UK to install platform gap-fillers at its stations to reduce the risk of passenger accidents.

The bespoke gap-fillers sit along the edge of station platforms reducing the size of the gap between the train and platform edge.

Stepboard accidents are a concern of the whole rail industry. They occur when a passenger falls between the train and the platform edge. They are responsible for 48 per cent of the overall fatality risk to passengers, and cause knock-on delays to train services while the passenger’s welfare is being looked after. The gap-fillers work to reduce the risk of these accidents.

A year-long trial at HEx’s Heathrow Terminal 5 station found there were no stepboard incidents wherever gap-fillers were in use. The devices are now set to be installed at all Heathrow Express train stations by the end of May.

Joanne Lewis, head of safety for Heathrow Express, said: “Our top priority is ensuring Heathrow Express, and the rail industry as a whole, is as safe as possible for customers and employees.

“Stepboard accidents are a concern across the rail industry, and for good reason; they can be fatal. With demand for rail travel predicted to double over the next 30 years in the UK, devices like gap-fillers could be a big help.”

The platform gap-fillers, designed by Australian company Delkor Rail, also enhance access for disabled passengers, and improve efficiency of passenger boarding, reducing the number of delays.

Heathrow Express, which carries 17,000 people a day between Paddington and Heathrow, is now working with the Rail Safety & Standards Board (RSSB) and other train operating companies (TOCs) in developing industry-wide National Platform Train Interface (PTI) and Platform Gap-Filler strategies.

Heathrow Express already has step-free access, ideal for wheelchair-users and buggies, to all its stations – three at Heathrow and platforms 6 and 7 at Paddington, owned and managed by Network Rail. Heathrow Express also has level access to its trains from all its station platforms.

The platform gap-fillers were trialled at each end of platform four at Heathrow Express’s Terminal 5 (T5) station between March 2014 and March 2015. During this time there were no stepboard incidents in the areas where the gap fillers were located.

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