Improving the accessibility of passenger railways in the Republic of Serbia

Tags: passengers, modes of transport, rail transport, Republic of Serbia, rail infrastructure, rail stations, infrastructure, accessibility standards, reduced mobility, passenger transport, part of the European railway network, Commission of the European Communities, Passenger movements, European Commission, national network, Serbian railways, Interoperability, European Transportation, European Transport Area, Serbia, transport policies, mobility, rail passengers, passenger railways, network development, railway infrastructure, accessibility, Belgrade, Official Gazette
Content: Improving the accessibility of passenger railways in the Republic of Serbia
railway stations are the primary interface with the passenger. They must be accessible for all passengers, including people with reduced mobility. New and renovated stations in the Republic of Serbia meet this challenge.
Serbian traffic policies after World War II were strongly influenced by the experiences in North America and were thus directed at the development of road traffic. However, during the early seventies of the twentieth century the euphoria of road transport proved to be a solution of limited potentials. Until the 1980s the construction of new and reconstruction of existing railway infrastructure were based on the demands of freight traffic. Nevertheless the increase of rail capacities enabled reducing the journey time of passenger transport and increased the number of passengers. But this effect was long times considered to be a secondary one. A drastic change in the area of rail network development in Europe happened in 1981, when the Paris-Lyon high-speed rail was launched and a large increase in the number of passengers was recorded. Modern Europe developed a high-speed rail network, with simultaneous upgrading of existing railway lines. Further development of the European railway system is directed towards lowering the transport costs and increasing safety and comfort of travel, as well as taking the full advantage of minimal Ecological Impact compared to other modes of transport. However, this development of rail transport should not be viewed isolated from other modes of transport. Practically, the competitiveness of rails can only be maintained by good connections with other modes of transport in well-located rail stations of adequate capacity and with efficient rail-related services.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the European Union defined a common transport policy in its document entitled EU Transport White Paper "European Transportation Policy for 2010 ­ time to decide" [1]. This policy is based on regulated competition, connection of various modes of transport and a reduction of congestion points in traffic systems. It puts users' needs in its focus. The 2011 White Paper of the EU promotes non-discriminatory access to rail infrastructure and efficient multi-modal passenger transport [2]. Placing users in the focus of transport policies enables the realisation of traffic that satisfies human needs. This approach may resemble, at first sight, a simple application of the "human measurements principle" of the famous architect Le Corbusier (1887­1965). However, the realization of rail transport in accordance with human needs represents a contemporary approach in the design of a rail infrastructure, which equally encompasses all categories of passengers. 1 Structure of rail passengers According to the TSI PRM [3] a modern rail infrastructure must provide equal conditions for all age categories of passengers: children, adults and the elderly. It must provide safe and simple use regardless of a potential visual, hearing, stature, mobility or intellectual impairment. The following categories of passengers have difficulties
when using trains and the associated infrastructure: wheelchair users, other people with reduced mobility (people with broken limbs, people with difficulties in walking, people with children, people with heavy or bulky luggage, elderly people, pregnant women), visually impaired people, blind people, those with hearing impairment, and deaf people, people with communication impairment (people who have difficulties in communication or understanding written or spoken language, including foreigners with insufficient knowledge of the local language, people with mental, psychological or intellectual difficulties), people of small stature and children. In the Republic of Serbia there are around 800,000 people (around 10% of the total population) with various levels of impairment, and around 16% are people above the age of 65 (Fig. 1). This data is similar to other European statistical data. Specific studies into the determination of the number of rail passengers with reduced mobility have not been performed in Serbia until now. At present, the results of studies carried out in France and Germany are used in Serbia, bearing in mind the similarity of the Serbian statistical data regarding the number of people with reduced mobility and the elderly to the European data. These studies show that 20­30% of passengers have some kind of reduced mobility. Further increases in the number of people with reduced mobility can be expected, due to the changes in the age structure of the Serbian population, as well as an increased percent-
Zdenka Popoviґc
Leposava Puzavac
Luka Lazareviґc
Autorenfoto zu klein, bitte in besserer Qualitдt und grцЯer neu liefern Autorenangaben Faculty of Civil Engineering University of Belgrade (Serbia) [email protected]
Autorenangaben Faculty of Civil Engineering University of Belgrade [email protected]
Autorenfoto bitte in besserer Qualitдt neu liefern Autorenangaben Faculty of Civil Engineering University of Belgrade [email protected]
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age of the population over the age of 65. For all passengers an easy accessibility shall be guaranteed (Fig. 2). The transport needs of people with reduced mobility are directed to different modes of transport. Modern railways must represent a segment in the combined transport chain in the multimodal door-to-door travel (Fig. 3). Regarding railway stations the task of the designer is essential. He takes care of the needs of all categories of passengers, especially providing easy and safe transfer from one mode of transport to another, clear route identification, availability of information, effective ticket service, optimally equipped waiting rooms, parking facilities, toilets, shops, restaurants, and other services within railway stations.
Fig. 1: The age structure of the population in Serbia (data from the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia)
2 Regulations in the Republic of Serbia The right of all passengers to unobstructed access to transport in the Republic of Serbia is stated in the "Prevention of Discrimination of People with Disabilities" Act [4]. A bill regarding the employment of people with disabilities became law in 2009. Accessibility of transport systems is an important precondition for those people when commuting to the workplace. The "Planning and Construction Act" passed in 2011 introduced new standards of accessibility in the form of mandatory technical measures, standards and conditions of design, planning and construction, which ensure unobstructed movement for people with disabilities, children and the elderly [5]. This Act introduces new construction standards for to make public areas and public buildings accessible to people with disabilities. The Act prescribes a mandatory fine for the investor or the authorised person if there is no access for disabled persons to a building of public interest available. A strict application of the accessibility standards increases the construction of infrastructure costs by a small fraction up to 2%. Later alterations demand a much higher investment (according to some research, as high as 30%, depending on the type of building or the type of alteration) [6]. Therefore, a timely application of accessibility standards is not only a humane and legal obligation but it is also a profitable investment. Respecting legal obligations and bearing in mind the public interest of accessible areas, Serbian Railways have been performing
Fig. 2: Structure of passengers Fig. 3: Position of the railway station in the transport chain
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level of interoperability and modernisation of the railway (Fig. 4).
The TSI PRM and the TSI INS CR (infrastructure of the conventional rail, [9]) are used for the purpose of regulation of unobstructed access to rolling stock in Pan-European and Trans-European rail corridors. The Republic of Serbia is concerned by these regulations with Corridor X.
The TSI PRM issued by the European Commission deals with station infrastructure including platforms, rolling stock and the gap between the platform edge and the vehicle. Also non-EU states as the Republic of Serbia have a common economic interest to apply the technical specifications of interoperability on main international lines and even further on. In Serbia, all new rolling stock and rail stations must be in compliance with the accessibility standards of the TSI PRM, and gradual adaptations must be planned for the existing rail infrastructure.
Fig. 4: Harmonisation of national rail standards in the Republic of Serbia
Creating a legislative base and implementing sanctions for failure to fulfil the legal obligations is a necessary precondition for the application of accessibility standards in planning, designing and construction of the railway infrastructure.
new constructions as well as reconstructions in accordance with the European accessibility standards. For that reason, the Directorate for Railways has been formed, by the Rail Act in 2005, for the purpose of providing professional services in the
field of rail transport, regulations and other tasks determined by this act [7, 8]. One of the tasks of the Directorate is drafting technical regulations, norms and standards in rail transport, as well as suggesting the measures to harmonise and increase the
For all categories of passengers mentioned earlier, according to the TSI PRM it is necessary to enable a safe and unobstructed access to rolling stock, ensuring that their dignity and integrity is preserved. Also, the applied measures and technical solutions should contribute to the increase in safety for all categories of passengers (both people with or without reduced mobility), as well as a faster flow of passengers on platforms. In the economic sense, gradual investments into new and existing infrastructure should increase the number of passengers who can use the rail services, and it should also lower the expenses for damages paid to injured passengers or to the families of rail casualties. Better comfort and safety for all categories of passengers should also increase the competitiveness of the railways in comparison with other modes of transport.
Apart from this, the media are used to promote the public importance of the accessibility to all types of transport without discrimination. In this way, the citizens of Serbia are provided with necessary information on the measures undertaken in order to make the entire surroundings accessible to the benefit of the whole society. The media promote good examples in practice and point at cases of non-conformity with accessibility standards.
Fig. 5: European Corridor X through the Republic of Serbia
Associations of citizens (The Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired, The Association of the Paraplegic and Quadriplegic of Serbia, etc.) as well as professional associations also contribute to raising public awareness and to undertaking specific ac-
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tions for the implementation of accessibility standards in transport. The education of students and engineers is an important foundation for the introduction of uniform services and accessibility concept of rail stations in Europe, in order to provide consistency in the application of measures for easy access for people with reduced mobility.
3 Passenger transport in Serbia and application of accessibility standards
Two out of ten traffic corridors in the European territory, as defined at the Helsinki conference in 1997, pass through Serbia: The Danube Corridor VII and the road-rail Corridor X Vienna­Zagreb­Belgrade­Nis ­ Thessaloniki, with branches Belgrade­Budapest and Nis­Sofia (Fig. 5).
The percentage of participation of passenger rail transport in comparison with other modes of transport is declining in the Republic of Serbia as well as in the EU. A research study shows an irregular use of the existing network of different modes of transport in Serbia [10]. One of the main aims of the transport policy in Serbia is the stimulation of long-distance rail transport. The realisation of this aim requires the integration of Serbian Railways network into the European rail network, based on interoperability.
Fig. 6: Passenger and freight routes, stations and yards in Belgrade
The reconstruction and modernisation of the rail infrastructure and the improvement of the rail transport would contribute to lower pollution of the environment, increased safety and lower energy consumption. Better quality of service for people with reduced mobility is to be primarily realised at railway stations with high numbers of passengers. In the case of Serbia these are the stations of the Belgrade rail junction.
Transport of wheelchair users has been planned on all major rail stations, at least 30km apart. Other solutions would require an unacceptably high financial investment and delaying of the trains in stations. Therefore it is necessary to organise door to door transport for the disabled in specialized vans. This solution has been applied on the territory of the City of Belgrade. The adaptation of passenger trains for the transport of the disabled is already under way, which will enable the use of the existent infrastructure planned for an unobstructed access of the disabled to platforms. For example, in the "Vukov Spomenik" station in Belgrade, where more than 2,000 passengers departs daily, there is a special entrance for wheelchair users and an elevator for them to descend to the platform. The reconstruction of the Belgrade rail junction is under way, which should enable sep-
Fig. 7: Model of the new station "Beograd Centar"; at present the station is under construction
aration of the passenger and freight transport as well as the relocation of the main passenger rail station (Fig. 6). The new rail station "Beograd Centar" (designed by Institute of Transport and professor Rogan) complies with accessibility standards. The platforms are accessed from above, providing better track monitoring and easier orientation (Fig. 7). The reconstruction of existing rail stations in Serbia shall include sufficient parking facilities for wheelchair users (reserved and properly indicated) in the proximity of the entrances to the rail stations (no further than 100m away), designed in compliance with the regulations for unobstructed ac-
cess for people with reduced mobility and shall enable fast and efficient connection to other modes of passenger transport (Fig. 8). Passenger routes and footpaths with unobstructed access for people with reduced mobility must enable safe access from the station's entrance to all services within the station and finally to the platforms. For this purpose, ramps or platform elevators must be provided in all access points with different floor levels. All access points, subways, footbridges; staircases must have an obstacle-free area of a minimum of 2 x 800 = 1600mm in width and headroom of 2300mm throughout.
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All information for passengers must have a simple and unified concept for the purpose of easy comprehension. The process of introducing induction couplers is under way in all major rail stations. In the existing stations, there is a problem of visibility of visual information signposts and their consistence with the audio announcements. The use of the Cyrillic alphabet creates problems to foreigners. Information boards in the Braille alphabet are currently being installed for blind and visually impaired people in all major stations. Mobile and free-standing devices are often placed as obstacles which disrupt the movement in the existing stations. Such obstacles must be easily detected with a stick for the blind and visually impaired. Transparent glass and Plexiglas obstacles (doors, boards, partitions, walls, etc.) constitute a danger. However, they are rare in the existing stations. In the new ones, they must be visibly marked at eye level, in accordance with the TSI PRM, for the purpose of keeping the safety and dignity of the blind and visually impaired. The height of markings must be suitable for children, wheelchair users, and people of small stature as well as all other adult passengers. Therefore lines should be placed on two standard levels in order to protect all categories of passengers. In the existing railway stations there are no toilets for wheelchair users. At least one
toilet wheelchair accessible cubicle must be provided at stations. Apart from pictograms on toilet doors, tactile markings are compulsory at a height of 900­1300mm. All service counters (ticket sales, information desks, etc.) must be accessible for wheelchair users and other people with reduced mobility and provided with seating facilities. On platforms, waiting areas and all other areas where people wait for trains, a weather-protected area fitted with ergonomic seating facilities and spaces for wheelchairs must be provided. The staircase on the main paths of movement must have a width of at least 1600 mm, measured between the internal sides of the handrail. Ramps and elevators will be provided for passengers who can not use the stairs. The TSI PRM determines two nominal values permissible for platform height: 550mm and 760mm above the running surface. It also determines the allowed gap, and the position of the first step. The reconstruction of all stations in Corridor X shall include platform height adjustment in combination with of coaches equipped with barrier-free passenger access [11]. Along the platform edge, at a distance of 80cm there should be a tactile line of warning. Timely evacuation must be provided for all passengers in hazardous situations. These measures must particularly include all passengers with reduced mobility.
4 Final remarks The race for sustainable mobility is a global one. Modern European railways operate under conditions of regulated competition and connecting with other modes of transport. The objective is to eliminate all barriers between modes of transport and national rail systems, to facilitate the process of integration and to create a single European transport area. For a successful rail passenger transport it is necessary to consider the requirements of the users. Market research has shown that passengers choose their modes of transport mostly based on the cost and travel time. By constructing new rail lines and increasing the quality of service for all passengers, including 20­30% of passengers with reduced mobility, rail transport remains competitive. Serbian Railways have a favourable position in the European rail network as 58% of their passenger stations are situated along international routes. However, this is a necessary but insufficient precondition for the successful functioning of rail transport. We consider that in order to use these benefits the following measures are necessary: Establish interoperability of the Serbian Railways network with the European network. Separate passenger and freight rail transport in major junctions, Resolve the conflict of the spatial position of the passenger rail subsystems, the urban environment and other traffic infrastructure. Locate passenger stations in the intersection of passenger flows in the important transport junctions. Establish a concept of a pass-through station type. Integrate the station into the urban matrix and the architecture of the town. Develop station functional contents vertically with easy access to all levels for all users. Transform railway stations in a multimodal traffic interchange, and Provide good comfort in terms of orientation, the presence of plenty of daylight and barrier-free access to all facilities in the stations for passengers with reduced mobility.
The above listed measures can be applied for any national network that is part of the European railway network.
Fig. 8: Passenger movements through the main hall of a railway station
Having analysed the existing legislative regulations in view of the rights of people with disabilities, we can conclude that the Republic of Serbia has harmonised its laws with the European regulations. However, a lack of technical regulations for the implementation of these regulations in rail infrastructure is apparent.
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Wherever new railway stations are built it is mandatory to apply the accessibility standards. The existing railway infrastructure is being gradually adjusted and improved through measures of reconstruction and modernisation in accordance with the accessibility standards. The stations on main lines with the highest number of passengers are the first in this process. Acknowledgement This work was supported by the Ministry of Science and technological development of Republic of Serbia through the research project No. 36002.
References [1] European Commission: White Paper ­ European Transportation Policy for 2010, time to decide, Luxembourg, 2001. [2] European Commission: White Paper ­ Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area, Brussels, 2011. [3] Commission of the European Communities: Technical Specification for Interoperability ­ People with Reduced Mobility, 2008. [4] Prevention of Discrimination of People with Disabilities Act. Official Gazette, Republic of Serbia, No. 33/2006. [5] Planning and Construction Act. Official Gazette, Republic of Serbia, No. 24/2011. [6] Popovic Z., L. Puzavac, and D. Plamenac: Railway Infrastructure in Republic of Serbia ­ Accessibility for Persons with Reduced Mobility. 10th International Conference on railway engineering, University of Westminster, London, 2009. [7] Rail Act. Official Gazette, Republic of Serbia, No. 18/2005 [8] Popovic, Z.: Interoperability and standardisation of rail infrastructure ­ Integration of Serbian railways. Rail Technical Review (RTR), Vol. 47, Issue 04, Hamburg, 2007.
[9] Commission of the European Communities: Technical specification for interoperability relating to the infrastructure subsystem of the trans-European conventional rail system, 2011. [10] CIP-Institute of Transport: Standardizacija usluge u prevozu putnika u zeleznickom saobracґaju (Standardisation of rail passenger services, in Serbian). Research study, Belgrade, 2008. [11] Ostermann, N., and B. Rueger: Neuartige Ansдtze zur barrierefreien Einstiegsgestaltung bei Reisezugwaggons. Eisenbahntechnische Rundschau (ETR) No. 12, 2006.
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