Greater automation use can make rail travel faster, claims UK professor
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Greater automation use can make rail travel faster, claims UK professor

27 Nov 2017 (Last Updated November 27th, 2017 10:30)

An increase in automation could help to eliminate bottlenecks within the rail network and therefore improve the capacity and safety of train journeys, University of Huddersfield professor George Bearfield has claimed.

An increase in automation could help to eliminate bottlenecks within the rail network and therefore improve the capacity and safety of train journeys, University of Huddersfield professor George Bearfield has claimed.

He also stated that driver-only trains are safer than trains featuring a driver and guard.

George Bearfield is the Director of System Safety and Health at Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) and a visiting professor of Rail Safety at University of Huddersfield’s Institute of Railway Research.

"When it comes to safety, automation will enable us to make the next step change by reducing exposure to harm."

Bearfield has written an online article after analysing data from UK and European rail networks, including a statistical finding that shows that the occurrence of incidents and fatalities involving passengers boarding or alighting trains are highest for trains with both drivers and guards.

The data also supported the assertion that driver-only trains are significantly safer than those with doors operated by a guard.

Professor Bearfield said: “The total fatality risk per year to a regular commuter due to all causes is estimated as one in 400,000 per annum.

“The train dispatch related risk (by any method) is approximately one in 6.7 million per year.

“These risks are well below the level that the Health and Safety Executive defines as ‘negligible’.”

Bearfield also found that GB rail is the safest mode of land transport in Europe.

In the article, he advocated the usage of automation in railways, which he predicts will enable operators to overcome a variety of challenges.

Bearfield stated: “Automation can help us overcome a range of challenges, for example unlocking capacity bottlenecks.

“When it comes to safety, automation will enable us to make the next step change by reducing exposure to harm, removing the variable element of human behaviour managing important controls and making better use of our unique talents as human beings.”