Burning issue: the EN 45545 pan-European safety standard

21 October 2013

Ben Rose and Jonas Vedholm of Bombardier Transportation, one of the world’s largest rail-equipment manufacturing and servicing companies, talk to Carl Friedmann about industry reaction to the recently released EN 45545 pan-European fire safety standard.

Carl Friedmann: Can you detail the benefits of EN 45545 and how Bombardier Transportation will be able to harmonise fire safety management across its European vehicle production sites?

Ben Rose and Jonas Vedholm: The introduction of EN 45545 poses several opportunities for Bombardier Transportation in harmonising our approach to fire safety management, especially across the European vehicle production sites.

Bombardier Transportation has established the Centre of Competence for Fire Safety, a cross-divisional network of fire safety experts throughout Europe and the world. This formalised network enables fire safety experts to share experiences, best practices, tools and methods in order to continuously enhance the design of our trains, and also improve the methodologies and processes used in the engineering design process.

Firstly, the phase-out of national standards with EN 45545 simplifies the sharing of best practices and ensures that all experts are 'talking the same language'. Communication is simplified even for our non-EU fire safety experts, who are now able to compare and contrast their fire safety management cases consistently with all European projects.

As an international business, Bombardier Transportation anticipates that the collective expertise from this network can now be flexibly deployed to meet the demands of our European sites. Furthermore, as non-EU customers have previously requested compliance to European national standards such as the UK's BS 6853, it is anticipated that some non-EU customers will now request compliance to EN 45545. Again, Bombardier Transportation's Centre of Competence for Fire Safety has the in-house expertise to deliver upon these requests.

Bombardier Transportation is not the only beneficiary of EN 45545. The release of the standard and the harmonisation of the material requirements are a major game-changer for our suppliers, which now can focus on achieving compliance to the European standard EN 45545-2 instead of needing to conform to several of the notified national standards such as BS 6853, DIN 5510, NF F 16-101 and NF F 16-102, and UNI CEI 11170-1-3. The national standards are expected to be withdrawn by mid-2016.

The fact that all suppliers to the European projects will work with the same fire standard also ensures familiarity with the requirements and the reuse of supplied information across projects. Thus, the introduction of EN 45545 achieves the EU's original objective of reducing trade barriers faced by manufacturers through harmonising the requirements (where the TSI applies), thereby enhancing interoperability and creating a common market within the EU.

What has been the industry reaction to the EN 45545 regulations, and are there any issues that still need to be addressed that they don't cover?

The reaction of the rail industry to EN 45545 has been largely positive. The standard has been many years in the making, owing to the complexities of agreeing a pan-European fire safety standard to replace the national standards. During the course of its development, the viewpoints and concerns of interested parties from EU nations have been debated.

The EN 45545 standard was introduced with a three-year transitional period because of a planned revision of part two (reaction to fire of materials). Amendments are planned, since the working committees were not able to fully consider all the comments raised by the national committees regarding the earlier draft document, CEN/TS 45545-2. Comments mainly stemmed from the test methods specified for seats, ignition sources for bodyside panels and the application of pilot flame (or not) in the test methods for some product categories.

"EN 45545 is probably the most comprehensive set of fire safety standards for rolling stock ever developed."

Furthermore, the amendment will consider the results of the Transfeu R&D project - results that were not available prior to the publication of EN 45545-2. The amendment will also consider the other minor technical comments that have been raised; the objective is to publish a revision of EN 45545-2 within the transitional period.

The UK was alone in voting against part two of EN 45545, although there is some support for the UK's stance among other EU member states. The vote against part two was primarily due to concerns about the suitability of seat-fire-testing requirements for deep tube metro applications, particularly in instances where there may not be side exits or refuges available (other than at station stops).

The ignition source specified for EN 45545 seat testing was found not to be able to differentiate between the seating used to meet current UK fire requirements on different vehicle types (metro seating vs mainline vehicle seating). All seat types tested, whether they are sourced from a metro vehicle (designed to UK national standard BS 6853 Cat Ia) or a mainline vehicle (designed to UK national standard BS 6853 Cat Ib or II), met the highest fire performance requirements of EN 45545. As such, Bombardier Transportation is engaged in the FSH 19 BSI steering committee, which is seeking to agree a revision of EN 45545 in light of the UK rail industry's concerns with the seat fire performance requirements.

A development programme is underway by the RSSB (R&D project T1018) to investigate and develop an acceptable proposal for a change to the seat test specification.

What are the logistical challenges of updating or retrofitting systems in existing rolling stock in order to comply with EN 45545?

In practice, it may be prohibitively expensive to refurbish vehicles so that they fully comply with all requirements of EN 45545, especially if the vehicles to be refurbished pre-date the introduction of national fire safety standards. Here, a review of the fire performance of the existing vehicle design would be assessed, and a strategy formulated to ensure that the fire performance of the vehicle is not degraded and, where practicable, improved.

Aspects of the vehicle architecture that are considered prior to upgrading or renewal of existing vehicles include: materials fire performance; provision of fire extinguishers and fire/smoke detectors; use of passenger communication systems; inclusion of passenger emergency brake override; provision of emergency lighting systems; control of ventilation; vehicle evacuation; and rescue services information and access.

At a train level, a fire safety concept for the vehicle is derived; this, in conjunction with Bombardier Transportation's robust and proven engineering process, ensures that the management of requirements, engineering deliverables, design and quality reviews meets the internal and external acceptance criteria derived from requirements, risk analyses and processes.

What does EN 45545 address in regard to achieving the perfect fire evacuation plan?

The standard outlines a holistic approach where the importance of the vehicle architecture and the interdependences of its constituent components are emphasised. The design, functional and material requirements in the standard efficiently support passengers and staff to evacuate the vehicle and to reach a place of safety in the event of an emergency.

This is achieved by using materials that meet the stringent requirements outlined in EN 45545-2, which uses the FIRST approach (flammability, ignitability, rate of heat release, smoke, toxicity). Fire detection systems are implemented to provide early warning of a fire event. The vehicles are designed to facilitate evacuation (for example through minimising 'pinch points' in the egress routes and ensuring no tripping hazards are present).

"Bombardier Transportation is not the only beneficiary of EN 45545. The release of the standard and the harmonisation of the material requirements are a major game-changer for our suppliers."

Where appropriate, preventive and vehicle-running continuity measures are implemented, which ensure the continued function of the traction and braking systems as well as the integrity of the electrical emergency equipment. This allows the train to continue to a more suitable location for evacuation; for example, the nearest metro station. Other measures such as the control of ventilation are also implemented in order to support the evacuation scenarios that could arise.

Bombardier Transportation designs its trains so that passengers can be positively influenced to efficiently evacuate; for example, through provision of a passenger information system, emergency lighting and an uncluttered interior. A key focus is to ensure the running capability of the trains.

When discussing evacuation scenarios, it is also important to focus on train operators, and the education and training of their personnel, as well as the preventive and supportive measures in the infrastructure.

How does EN 45545 compare with other safety standards?

EN 45545 is probably the most comprehensive set of fire safety standards for rolling stock ever developed.

The European fire safety standard outlines a holistic approach to fire safety; it is important to emphasise that the EN 45545 standard is a result of harmonisation work from the notified national standards and research projects.

The notified national standards did meet their objectives, as statistics show that incidents related to fire safety have been steadily decreasing since their introduction. The EN 45545 standard will meet the same objectives, as well as meeting the objective of harmonising the requirements to enhance interoperability and create a common market in Europe.

What are the immediate effects of EN 45545 on the supply chain?

The introduction of EN 45545 will mainly ease the material compliance aspects for vehicle manufacturers and suppliers. They may now begin to focus on a single standard in Europe, instead of working against all the different notified national standards.

In the short term, there is limited EN 45545-2 testing data available. As such, neither vehicle manufacturers nor operators currently have a wealth of information to refer to. However, the longer-term benefit is that suppliers now only need to test their materials to EN 45545-2 in order to serve the entire European marketplace, rather than be required to conduct tests and generate compliance evidence to satisfy multiple national standards.

Bombardier Transportation was working in accordance with the draft CEN/TS 45545 for some of our train designs, such as the BOMBARDIER ZEFIRO high-speed train. The coming train designs for the Stockholm Metro and the S-Bahn Hamburg Metro will be built in accordance with the EN 45545 standard and the next-generation BOMBARDIER AVENTRA platform in the UK is being designed to address the requirements of EN 45545.

The next-generation BOMBARDIER AVENTRA platform in the UK is being designed to address the requirements of EN 45545.
Ben Rose is team leader of the Materials Performance team in Bombardier Transportation’s UK manufacturing facility.
Jonas Vedholm is fire safety lead expert in Bombardier Transportation’s international fire safety network.

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