The end of METRO: A full scale evacuation of a train in the Stockholm metro system
About one year later than scheduled, the full scale evacuation experiment of the Swedish research project termed METRO was finally executed. The experiment, which was performed in the middle of the night between Thursday and Friday last week, included approximately 150 participants (in the ages 18-70, all recruited from the general public in Stockholm) and was carried out in the actual Stockholm metro. Prior to the experiment, the participants had been told they were going to take part in a study primarily focused on the train driver’s ability to communicate with onboard passengers during traffic. However, what they had not been fully informed about was the fact that they were also supposed to evacuate the train while inside the underground rail transportation system.
The experiment was initiated at the Vreten underground station in the Stockholm metro, where the participants arrived and registered at around 24.00 last Thursday. Eventually, the participants were led onto a metro train (a C20-train to be specific), and then taken for an ordinary trip in the metro. Some time into the experiment, after having made regularly stops at a number of stations, the train eventually came to a stop in between two stations (thus standing inside the tunnel). The train driver then informed the passengers that the train had stopped due to a technical error. Some 10-15 min later, when the electricity had been shut off, artificial smoke was produced in the middle of the train. The train driver now informed the passengers that a fire had erupted in the middle of the train, and instructed them to evacuate the train and move away from the smoke to the closest station.
The closest station was approximately 500 m away from the train, but what the passengers did not know was that an emergency exit was located approximately 300 m towards the station. Above this emergency exit, a loudspeaker broadcasting a combined alarm signal and a spoken message had been installed (found to work particularly well in a previous experiment of the METRO project). Among other things, we wanted to study whether or not the passengers would chose this emergency exit, or if they would continue to the actual platform of the nearest station. Other things that we were interested in measuring was the flow rate of people in the train exits (i.e., the number of people that were able to leave the train per unit time), and the movement speeds of the people when walking in the tunnel.
Before I can give any answers to the above mentioned topics, I need to analyze all the video material that was collected in the experiment. However, what can be said at this point is that the technical installation above the emergency exit seems to have performed very well. The preliminary observations suggest that all participants chose the emergency exit. I will of course get back to the experiment in future blog posts, and when the analysis have been completed, so please continue to visit my site for more information.
Finally, I want to extend a warm thank you to all the personnel that made the experiment possible. Thank you SL, MTR, Strukton, Infranord and CSG for your efforts and participation both before and during the experiment. And thank you Bengt Dahlgren Brand & Risk AB, Brandskyddslaget AB, Briab – Brand & Riskingenjörerna AB, DeBrand Sverige Aktiebolag, Faveo Projektledning AB and SP Sveriges Tekniska Forskningsinstitut AB for contributing to the execution of the experiment. I really hope that those of you who took part find that your participation was worthwhile, and that the experience may be of at least some value to you during your consultative work.