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13 November 2008

Seeing the benefits of laminated windows

Since 1996, 12 fatalities have occurred because passengers have been thrown through a breakable window. Though laminated glass has been compulsory for new trains since 1993, it’s estimated that almost half of all trains operating in the UK still have breakable windows. So, in order to save lives and reduce casualties, the focus must be on bringing rolling stock up to standard. However, as Steve Dawson, head of Autoglass Specials explains, there are cost implications for the rail industry to weigh up.

It is becoming widely accepted that breakable windows is one of the greatest causes in the UK of death among rail passengers, supported by a recent report from the Rail Safety & Standards Board*. During the last 12 years, 32 people have been thrown through a breakable window during a train crash, with 12 resulting in fatality.

In response, all new trains are fitted with laminated rather than toughened glass. Laminated units, compulsory since 1993, are double glazed, with a laminated inner pane and a toughened outer pane. Compared to toughened glass, laminated glass is more impervious to penetration, making it the safest option.

The benefits of using laminated glass have already been proven. For example, in the Cumbria rail crash of February 2007, the train, which had laminated windows, was travelling at 95mph when it derailed. Several of the carriages rolled over, but no one was thrown from the train.

Obviously the best solution for passenger safety would be for toughened glass windows in rolling stock to be replaced with laminated units. However, there are huge financial implications, which the rail industry needs to weigh up against the funds available and the perceived benefits.

Laminated glass costs substantially more than toughened glass**. So, a replacement programme would cost millions of pounds, which would have to be measured against downtime and the subsequent loss of revenue. The cost would have to be absorbed or passed onto customers via increased ticket prices – neither of which being an attractive option.

So, in an already cash-strapped industry, would a move to laminated glass on every train prove financially viable? With the passenger safety case for laminated glass already proven, the real question is how much the rail industry should invest in the prevention of fatalities during incidents which now, thankfully, happen very rarely

For information about Autoglass Specials and their dedicated service for rail operators or to speak with an advisor anytime, call the dedicated phone line on 0800 413 044 or log onto www.coachbusandrail.Autoglass.co.uk.

* The report states: “Industry and glass experts agreed that laminated glass provided significantly better passenger containment protection in accidents” and that it would also reduce the risk of injury from crash debris penetrating the windows.
** Laminated glass is around three times more expensive per window than toughened glass.

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