From 2018, EN45545 railway standards on fire safety in rolling stock will be mandatory across Europe. The adoption of this standard follows a well-documented pan-European project over the last 20 years and will have a huge impact on the rail industry.

The development of the updated standard, which involved experts from Europe’s laboratories, train builders, certification bodies, regulators and component manufacturers, has brought significant changes to the rolling stock sector. The harmonised fire safety requirements require almost everything weighing more than 100 grams on a train to undergo stringent fire safety testing. This standard affects a wide range of operators and manufacturers, including upholsterers, cable suppliers and producers of floor coverings and ceilings, but brings much- needed consistency.

Following its publication in 2013, which created a significant step towards harmonised fire safety on European rolling stock, the standards have undergone further assessment and revision. As a business that provides fire testing, Exova Warringtonfire has been involved throughout the process of developing the new standard. The company was a partner in both of the EC projects (FIRESTARR and TRANSFEU), which significantly contributed to the development of the standard, and continues to work on the European committee responsible for the development of the specification.

A core part of fire safety rests on the use of materials that limit fire development and produce low levels of smoke and toxic fumes in the event of a fire. Part 2 of the EN 45545 series defines the test methods used to assess the reaction of materials to fire performance and the applicable criteria. The tests within the standard comprise small-scale tests (such as ISO 5660-1 and ISO 5659-2) and full-scale tests (such as ISO 9705). The conditions required depend on the type of product and its location on the train.

During the development of the standard by the FIRESTARR project, a classification system for the reaction to fire performance of products for trains, based on international fire test methods, was established. This pragmatic approach allowed a large database of small scale ISO and EN tests on 80 products (such as interior linings, seat upholstery and electro-technical components) to be created. The data was validated by full-scale tests conducted in a small railway compartment.

Review and amendment

The development of standards of such significance for industry takes many years of revision and review. Following the publication of Part 2 in 2013, it was immediately identified that, while it is an excellent tool to ensure selection of fire safe products, there remained room for further development. As all the comments raised through the development of Part 2 had not been fully considered, revision work started almost immediately after publication, focusing on areas known to require improvement.

Revision is still ongoing and two areas are currently being targeted for development and non-technical change.

Procedures for seat vandalism and a full-seat fire test (EN 45545-2 Annex A and B) will be transferred from annexes in EN 45545-2 and published as a standalone European Standard, EN 16989, hopefully in 2017/18. The main changes that will be included are to the ignition source (increased from 7kW to 15kW), change to extraction rate (0.6m3/s to 1.2m3/s) and the inclusion of smoke measurement in addition to heat release measurement.

It should be noted, EN 16989 will only detail test procedures rather than detail criteria – these will continue to be defined within EN 45545-2.

A change is also being sought to the method one chamber toxicity test which will be transferred from EN 45545-2 Annex C into a standalone European standard. While a number has not yet been assigned to this new document, it has already been drafted and will shortly be circulated for approval. Again, it is anticipated the document will be published as a European Norm in 2017/18.

The draft document couples ISO 5659-2 and ISO 19021, with the main changes being the measurement of toxic fumes continuously throughout the test duration alongside some equipment specification changes. The changes were largely influenced by the work conducted within the EC TRANSFEU project. As with EN16989, the new standard will only detail test procedures, with the detail criteria remaining in EN45545-2.

European Interoperability Directives

The switch from national specifications such as BS6853 to the mandatory European specification falls under European Law. The mandatory technical regulation which will allow interoperability across the European rail system will be introduced via the EC Directive 2008/57/EC which is supported by the Technical Specification for Interoperability (TSI), Commission Regulation (EU) No 1302/2014.

If all regulatory, technical and operational conditions are met, Interoperability will provide a trans-European rail system with safe and uninterrupted movement of trains that achieve the specified levels of performance throughout the entire network.

The standard, which will be mandatory from 2018, is already being adopted across Europe. The creation of Interoperability will further deliver significant economies of scale through the reduction in the number of tests that need to be performed during the manufacture of rolling stock.

As the final revisions to the standard continue, it will be vital for manufacturers, specifiers and operators to keep on top of the changes and adapt their business practices accordingly. EN45545 has been more than 20 years in the making, but will change the rail industry significantly for many more years in the future.

Written by Beth Dean, a fire scientist at Exova Warringtonfire, UK.