Fire Simulation in a Full-scale Bilevel Rail Car: Experimental Analysis to Assess Passenger Safety

Fire Simulation in a Full-scale Bilevel Rail Car: Experimental Analysis to Assess Passenger Safety

E. Trulli E.C. Rada F. Conti N. Ferronato M. Raboni L. Talamona V. Torretta

School of Engineering, University of Basilicata, Italy

Department of Civil, Environmental and Mechanical Engineering, University of Trento, Italy

Department of Theoretical and Applied Sciences, University of Insubria, Italy

1 January 2018
| Citation



The increasingly occurrence of fires risk within public transport facilities prompted many countries to improve public vehicle security implementing specific researches. The provision of a useful reference point for the compatibility of passengers and goods rail transport, with final attention to the preserva- tion of the environment and the human health, represent the general target of such investigations. As a result, this manuscript presents the outcomes of a full-scale experimentation of fire in a bilevel rail car for passengers’ transport, useful to evaluate human exposure to toxic loads during a fire. The research consisted in the temperature measurement in various positions and its comparison with a simulation model based on the theoretical approach. Furthermore, visibility and air quality (O2, CO2, CO, TOC, particulate matter) were analyzed inside the rail car. The comparison between numerical methods and data obtained allow understanding that the numerical model is an effective simulation tool of fire dynamics, especially within the lower deck, although it underestimates the trend of air temperature in the upper deck. Overall, the fire causes a rapid and considerable reduction of oxygen, down to a mini- mum value of 9.6% by volume, and an increase of particulate matter concentration and total organic carbon, up to maximum values of respectively 2200 mg/Nm3 and 800 mg/Nm3. Evaluations about the toxicological risk for human health and the environment are reported within the study, highlighting difficulties and threats in fire risk prediction and human exposure to toxic load as function of numerous factors, such as construction materials of railcars and passenger health state.


environmental risk, fire, rail car fire, rail transport, safety risk

1. Introduction
2. Methods and Materials
3. Results and Discussions
4. Conclusions

[1] Van Den Bosh, C.J.H., RAPM Weterings. Methods for the Calculation of Physical Effects, 3rd edn., The Netherlands Organization of Applied Scientific Research, The Hague, The Netherlands, 2005.

[2] La Repubblica (on line news dated June 30th 2009), available at

[3] Rai news24 (on line news dated February 18th 2004), available at

[4] Liu, X., Saat, M.R. & Barkan, C.P.L., Probability analysis of multiple-tank-car release incidents in railway hazardous materials transportation. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 276, pp. 442–451, 2014.

[5] Chilton, S., Covey, J., Hopkins, L., Jones-Lee, M., Loomes, G., Pidgeon, N. & Spencer, A., Perceptions of risk and preference-based values of safety. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 25, pp. 211–232, 2012.

[6] Kales, S.N., Soteriades, E.S., Christophi, C.A. & Christiani, D.C., Emergency duties and deaths from heart disease among firefighters in the United States. The New England Journal of Medicine, 356, pp. 1207–1215, 2007.

[7] Di Mauro, C., Bouchon, S. & Torretta, V., Industrial risk in the Lombardy Region (Italy): what people perceive and what are the gaps to improve the risk communication and the participatory processes. Chemical Engineering Transactions, 26, pp. 297–302, 2012.

[8] European Community. Tranfeu, available at

[9] Torretta, V., Transportation of dangerous substances: a decisional support system for risk analysis. Proceedings of CBEE 2009 International Conference on Chemical, Biological & Environmental Engineering, Singapore, pp. 310–314, 2009.

[10] Paltrinieri, N., Landucci, G., Molag, M., Bonvicini, S., Spadoni, G. & Cozzani, V., Risk reduction in road and rail LPG transportation by passive fire protection. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 167, pp. 332–344, 2009.

[11] Torretta, V., Raboni, M., Copelli, S. & Urbini, G., Application of a decision support system to the transport of hazardous materials. Journal of Environmental Engineering and Management, 12(10), pp. 2031–2039, 2013.

[12] Forsberg, R. & Björnstig, U., One hundred years of railway disasters and recent trends. Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, 26, pp. 367–373, 2011.

[13] Markos, S.H. & Volpe, J.A., Comparison of the US and European approaches to passenger train fire safety. Proceedings of the 2nd International Fire in Vehicles (FIVE), Chicago, USA, 2012.

[14] Zhu, J., Li, X.J. & Mie, C.F., Combustion performance of flame-ignited high-speed train seats via full-scale tests. Case Studies in Fire Safety, 4, pp. 39–48, 2015.

[15] Directive 2006/90/EC of 3 November 2006 adapting for the seventh time to technical progress Council Directive 96/49/EC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States with regard to the transport of dangerous goods by rail. Bruxelles, Belgium, 2006.

[16] Gheorhe, A.V., Birchmeier, J., Vamanu, D., Papazoglou, I. & Kröger, W., Comprehensive risk assessment for rail transportation of dangerous goods: a validated platform for decision support. Reliability Engineering & System Safety, 88, pp. 247–272, 2005.

[17] BM Systems, Antifire products. Online:

[18] NIOSH-National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Criteria for a recommended standard: occupational exposure to heat and hot environments. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2016-106, Cincinnati, USA. 2016.

[19] Contini, S., Copelli, S., Raboni, M., Torretta, V., Sala Cattaneo, C. & Rota, R., IEC 6158: effect of test policy on the probability of failure on demand of safety instrumented systems. Chemical Engineering Transactions, 33, pp. 487–492, 2013.

[20] Ingason, H., Model scale railcar fire tests. Brand for sk-project 404-011, SP Fire Technology, 48, 2005.

[21] U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, Public Health Service Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological Profile for Carbon Monoxide, Atlanta, USA, 2012.

[22] Valerio, F., Review on environmental impact of solid wastes produced by municipal urban waste incinerators. E&P-Epidemiologia & Prevenzione, 32(4–5), pp. 244–253, 2008.

[23] Rada, E.C., Ragazzi, M., Ionescu, G., Merler, G., Moedinger, F., Raboni, M. & Torretta, V., Municipal solid waste treatment by integrated solutions. Energy Procedia, 50, pp. 1037–1044, 2014.

[24] Torretta, V., Ionescu, G., Raboni, M. & Merler, G., Mass and energy balance of an integrated solution for municipal solid waste treatment. WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, 180, pp. 151–161, 2014.