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Innovative Technologies for Safer and more Secure Land Mass-Transport Infrastructure under Terrorist Attacks


The project aims at reducing the vulnerability of rail station infrastructures and rolling stock to explosion loads. The assessment of this vulnerability is achieved via numerical simulations of the blast effects. Thus, engineering design simulation tools are being developed based on structural and fluid mechanics and appropriate geometry mapping techniques for large structures. Case studies of typical stations and coaches are also elaborated for assessing the efficiency of these tools in predicting the performance of structures and the injury risk levels of the occupants.


The project has been motivated by the need to mitigate shortcomings identified subsequent to the most recent terrorist attacks that have targeted the urban transport systems of two major European capitals. The need to take initiatives in this area is reinforced by the current climate, which indicates that such attacks will not abate in the foreseeable future.

The nature of land mass passenger transport, with its open security architecture and widely dispersed assets, would suggest that measures comparable to those applicable to civil aviation cannot, and will not, be put into place in the near future. Nevertheless, a number of security measures have been introduced following conventional lines and centring on increased surveillance and patrols.

If it is not possible to completely eliminate the hazard, and it is not possible to secure all the assets that make up the land mass passenger transport system, then the best option available is to reduce the overall risk by securing specific vulnerable system elements. One such area is the resilience of moveable and unmovable parts of the land mass passenger transport infrastructure.


The rail and underground stations constitute a highly heterogeneous group of physical assets built-predominantly- over the last century. They were built to meet the social needs using the technical solutions consistent with their era, for which terrorism was not considered a threat. This motivates two questions with regards to mitigation of terrorist attacks:

  • the first concerns how best to retrofit existing structures; and the
  • second, how to plan, design and deploy new structures and objects (carriages and ancillary equipment).

The answers to such questions require sophisticated computational (and even experimental if the need arises) structural analysis conducted within the framework of policy-driven objectives. Up till now, carriages have been designed according to crashworthiness criteria but not to withstand explosions. The configuration of trains, the partitions between carriages, and the influence of tunnels on trains in the event of explosions, were all issues which, quite understandably, were considered irrelevant and, consequently, ignored in their time. This approach may now have to be revised.

Simulation of structural response of a metro vehicle due to an internal explosion (Europlexus).

Interaction with the end-users is essential, as the main objective of this project is to provide operators and policy makers with the in-house scientific advice that will enable them to make qualified decisions in this area.


In order to achieve the above objectives the vulnerability of existing metro and railway infrastructures should be the first item to be assessed, e.g. through appropriate simulation means based on computational structural and fluid dynamics. Based on the outcome of such vulnerability analyses, measures may be taken either to reduce the identified weaknesses through appropriate modifications. Such modifications could be changes in the geometrical configuration, introduction of weak/fusible elements for overpressure reduction, or simply to take the identified weaknesses into account and to appropriately adapt the way to exploit the in situ infrastructures.

Simulation of structural behaviour of a train-station roof- truss due to an internal explosion (Europlexus).

The development of numerical simulation techniques for the assessment of the structural vulnerability of several construction elements and configurations has been extensively pursued within the code EUROPLEXUS. This structural analysis program, based on an explicit finite element formulation, is suitable for studying fast dynamic responses of structures (explosions, impacts, crashes, etc.) and has special capabilities for modelling fluid-structure interaction phenomena.

For mapping the geometry of the structures, especially of the older stations and/or where no drawings are available, the 3D laser scanning technique "RECONSTRUCTO" has been successfully employed. This has been developed by the JRC Nuclear Safeguards Unit.


RAILPROTECT is an activity under the action Physical Vulnerability Assessment of Critical Structure (PVACS).

The project started in late 2006 in support of the transport security policies of the Directorate General for Energy and Transport of the European Commission (AA 30159). DG TREN Unit of “Security of surface transports and transport of dangerous goods” is responsible for this action. The project will finish in May 2009.

European rail transport stake-holders and relevant organizations have been invited to contribute to the development of the project. Among them: the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), the International Union of Railways (UIC), Regie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP), Rete Ferroviaria Italiana (RFI), the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), the European Rail Infrastructure Managers (EIM), the European Railway Agency (ERA), the European Rail Research Network of Excellence (EURNEX), Department for Transport (DfT), the Ernst-Mach-Institut (EMI) etc.


George Solomos
European Commission - Joint Research Centre
Institute For the Protection and Security of the Citizen
Tel. +39 0332 789916 - Fax +39 0332 789049

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