Cranfield pioneers coach safety research

November 08, 1999

In recent months coaches have been at the centre of some very tragic publicity. Engineers at Cranfield Impact Centre Ltd, part of Cranfield University, have been researching new safety measures to increase safety for passengers. This is one of the only places in the country able to facilitate such a project.

At present there is little legislation to protect coach passengers. In 1987 the Economic Commission for Europe introduced a voluntary regulation to protect passengers in the event of rollover accidents. This has, so far, only been adopted by Britain, Spain and Hungary. Ministers are presently meeting in Brussels to discuss updating legislation to extend to the whole of Europe.

Currently, only coaches registered after 1993 are subject to the legislation which requires the structure to maintain a specified survival space after impact, to allow passengers room to escape.

Cranfield Impact Centre has been helping coach manufacturers improve coach safety and gain the required approval. One possible method is to use alternative materials in the structure. Research with a Dutch manufacturer, Bova, has looked at using composite glass fibre for the front and rear rollbars of the coach rather than the traditional tubular steel. This method reduces the weight and centre of gravity of the coach while still maintaining the required survival space during rollover. In fact during the full-scale rollover test the coach structure almost fully returned to it¹s original shape. At present Cranfield is one of the only places in Britain able to test coaches for rollover safety.

Another method for gaining the rollover approval is to combine component test data and computer simulations. Cranfield Impact Centre has used this approach many times and is currently developing this method, using state-of-the-art dynamic simulations. Cranfield Impact Centre has always been at the forefront of passenger safety, their research played a fundamental part in the Government¹s decision to introduce seatbelts on coaches and they are frequently used in an advisory role.

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