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Platforms and station safety concept, part 2

Employee safety more important than passenger safety?

At the West Coast of the USA, platform height is restricted to 8 inches. For European railroaders, this is difficult to understand. Platforms as low as these are typically forbidden in Europe, unless grandfathered. But the regulations at US West Coast do not deal with passenger safety at all, they are employee safety regulations.

Modern station with
pedestrian overpass, two doubledeck trains.
In California and Oregon, even the newest platforms aren't higher than 8 inches.

Almost any railroad operation considers passenger safety to be the foremost duty of the employee. It is therefore surprising, that regulations at the US West Coast sacrifice passenger safety in favour of employee safety. There are several reasons for it:

  1. "Platform" does not only mean the platforms at passenger stations. It also points to boxcar loading facilities. At these locations, where cars have to be spotted, employees are on the ground, and a minimum clearance to high platforms of boxcar floor height is required. At these freight loading facilities, the regulations make a lot of sense.
  2. When the regulations were written, there weren't any high platforms at the US West Coast, but plenty of boxcar loading facilities.
  3. When the regulations were written, a revival of passenger rail wasn't expected.
  4. In most cases, the infrastructure is owned by a freight railroad, and the passengers are moved by a guest on this infrastructure. These deals typically releave the host railroad of all responsibility for the passengers, but it still pays for insurance of its own employees.

Work in progress. Work in progress. Work in progress! Work in progress. Work in progress.

Graphical representation of platform height 

741-310-0030 Platforms

Minimum side clearances for platforms as measured from centerline of track shall be:

Description – Minimum Clearance:

(a) Platforms constructed 203 millimeters or less above top of rail at greatest height – 1.42 meters;

(b) Platforms constructed in excess of 203 millimeters but 1.21 meters or less above top of rail at greatest height &ndash 2.21 meters;

Unit conversion for text on this page.
2.5 feet 76 cm
2 feet 61 cm
15 inches 38 cm
1.8 feet 55 cm
5.1 inches 13 cm

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Last modified: 2005-12-28