Designing the Urban Rail Environment to Reduce Vandalism
- Monash University
- Metro Trains Melbourne
Vandalism within rail environments acts to deteriorate the quality of operations, with certain forms culminating in the cancellation of services. Sponsored by Metro Trains Melbourne (MTM), the project resulted in the development of a holistic, targeted and tailored approach to vandalism mitigation through both physical and system-based interventions. The primary (physical) outcomes include retrofit interventions designed to protect vulnerable train windscreens from vandalism. These interventions, in the form of a coupler cowl (with weight-detection sensors) and windscreen wiper cowl, address the windscreen’s vulnerabilities by both limiting access to the asset and reducing the time an offender goes undetected.
The design outcomes were developed through collaboration with MTM’s management, engineers, and security staff as well as members of the Monash Mobility Design Lab. Efficacy was also evaluated via a 1:1 prototype of the X’Trapolis fleet driver’s cabin. From a sustainability perspective, introducing retrofitted parts in response to issues such as vandalism is not common practice, resulting in the consistent replacement of vandalised components. The project outcomes attempt to shift this approach by placing greater value on updating rolling stock design as needed to increase its resilience to unexpected issues while also assisting in extending its service life.
By reducing vandalism rates via the design interventions, the reliability and efficiency of rail services increase, which, in turn, assists operators in reducing maintenance efforts while also meeting Government performance targets specified regarding service delivery and punctuality. A more reliable, safe and visually appealing public transport system also contributes to the overall satisfaction of commuters. Furthermore, protecting rail assets results in a longer life cycle (limiting the need for repair and/or replacement of expensive assets). The cowls, made from recyclable ABS, can also be manufactured locally, helping to reduce the environmental impact associated with international supply chains.
The outcomes demonstrate the tangible benefit of collaboration between the transport industry and design research. The project was the first of its kind in Victoria to research and develop tailored design interventions to protect rail assets most at-risk of vandalism. As MTM are operators and not manufacturers, approaching vandalism from a design perspective was transformative for this industry, with the ability to quickly adapt their fleet’s designs based on context-dependent vandalism signalling a significant shift from traditional practice. The project has also been recognised by The International Association of Public Transport, validating the often-overlooked benefits of design intervention.
Novel design features include the inclusion of weight detection sensors within the coupler cowl which notify rail operators in real-time through incident alerts. The technology is inexpensive as well as easy to implement and maintain and, at present, such technology has not yet been adapted to detecting trespassing in rail environments. By holistically linking assets to operators through wireless technology, more efficient security response times can be observed, streamlining the maintenance and security processes of rail operators. Linking operators to assets in real-time during incidents of vandalism also proves novel, shifting the platform from a reactive to a proactive approach.
The interventions are positioned in relation to Alstom’s X’Trapolis fleet, serving to immediately benefit operations in countries such as Australia, Chile, Spain, South Africa and France. A system-based intervention was also developed for MTM which supplements the physical outcomes by providing the community with a simple and safe mobile application for reporting vandalism while also creating an extra layer of surveillance within the rail environment. The information gained via asset interference (incident alerts) or community reports can be stored and analysed through an integrated system run by MTM, further assisting in holistically linking users, assets and operators.