EN45545 Materials and Their Impact on the Rail Industry
Whilst rail networks have been key to European transport since the Industrial Revolution, EN45545-2, the European Standard for fire safety in the rail industry has only been mandatory since 2018. Since then, EN45545 materials have been considered in all aspects of rail stock design and manufacture, helping to improve the safety of passenger and freight rail transport.
In the mid 20th century, fire safety regulations did not play an important part in the manufacture of rolling stock. Passenger coaches for trains were commonly constructed using materials such as steel and wood, whilst passenger seats were made of wool, leather, or leatherette, with no thought for the risks in the case of fire.
In the later decades of the 20th century, and the start of the 21st century, electrics were widely introduced in rolling stock, and many interior materials were replaced with plastics to help increase comfort for passengers and modernise carriage aesthetics. However, in introducing these elements to trains, rail industry designers helped increase the risk of fire and smoke.
Whilst it was recognised that a need for standard fire safety regulations was needed for rail stock across Europe, the rail industry found that there were a number of issues that made the implementation of these regulations somewhat challenging. For example, different manufacturing materials and production materials were used in different countries, and there were a variety of reasons attributed to the cause of fires, not only electrics, but braking system failures, high temperatures and even arson.
Following 20 years of research, testing, and negotiations to devise standard fire safety testing for materials used in all elements of rail vehicle manufacture, EN45545 was introduced in 2013, before becoming mandatory across Europe 5 years later.
What are EN45545 materials?
The aim of EN45545 is to protect passengers and staff onboard rail vehicles by reducing the likelihood of fire incidents. Part two of this European Standard (EN45545-2) sets much stricter requirements for how materials used in the manufacture of rail stock behave in the case of fire, but also how materials are tested.
They key areas tested for the adequate fire safety of rail materials include:
- Fire spread
- Heat release
- Smoke emission
- Toxic emission
EN45545 materials are classified according to 26 requirement sets (R1-R26) depending on where the materials are used, as well three hazard levels (HL1, HL2, HL3). Hazard classification depends on how many kilometres the rail vehicles are in a tunnel and whether they are automatic, two-storeys or if sleepers are on board.
Not only is EN45545 mandatory for all European rail vehicles in order to protect personnel and passengers, given that the rail industry puts great pressures on components and materials used, particularly through generating high temperatures and levels of vibration, EN45545-2 compliant materials are a key factor in rail vehicle design help to ensure the safety and longevity of rail vehicle components.
Selecting the right rail materials
The most important steps for selecting the right materials for rail vehicle components are determining which of the 26 requirements for fire safety apply to a certain rail application, and to identify the fire hazard level (HL1, HL2 or HL3). In addition to these determinations, it’s important to also select a material that not only meets the above requirements, but meets your technical requirements.
Needless to say, selecting rail materials can be easier said than done, so it is always advisable to work with a trusted partner with experience in supplying and selecting EN45545 materials. With experience of supplying materials for major rail projects including the London Underground, SSL, Electro Star, IEP.Crossrail and Mk3, and working alongside some of the most dynamic cellular silicone manufacturers in the world, CB Frost are well placed to provide assistance in choosing the right rail materials for any component.
Whilst the European Standard for fire safety in the rail industry only became mandatory in 2018, we were way ahead of the curve and all of our specialist high specification rail materials have been EN45545-2 compliant since long before this point. With our close relationships with rail suppliers and partners, we strive to always be ahead of industry changes, ensuring that you select the best possible rail materials to suit all applications.
To discuss your EN45545-2 compliant material needs for rail components, please call our experienced team on +44 (0)121 773 8484.