COMPANIES, OPERATORS AND ADMINISTRATIONS JOIN FORCES TO REGAIN USERS’ TRUST IN PUBLIC TRANSPORT FOLLOWING THE IMPACT OF COVID-19. IN THIS CONTEXT OF CHANGE, THE MULTIPLE MEASURES TAKEN AND THE TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES OF A PIONEERING INDUSTRY ALLOW THE RAILWAY TO BE POSITIONED AS THE MODE THAT BEST ADAPTS TO THE NEW SANITARY CONDITIONS TO OFFER A JOURNEY WITH THE MAXIMUM GUARANTEE.
During the state of alert, railway operators have worked very intensively, and in close collaboration with health authorities, to design a plan to ensure the safety of travellers and their staff in the new normal.
One of the greatest challenges now focuses on regaining the trust of regular public transport users and especially in the railway mode. To this end, all health prevention measures that were put in place since the beginning of the pandemic will be maintained.
These measures include the installation of partitions between customer service stands, exhaustive cleaning and disinfection of facilities, spaces and rolling stock, compulsory use of fase masks, hydroalcoholic gel dispensers or random temperature checks.
These guidelines have also been incorporated to the day-to-day of staff from different networks (metro, tram, commuter trains, regional trains, high speed trains, etc.) who are also subject to a continuous health monitoring, as indicated by medical prescriptions, through clinical analysis and testing.
In addition, many operators validate their commitment to maximum quality in the service with the request for the AENOR protocol certificate against COVID-19. Obtaining this seal is a proven guarantee that all the procedures necessary to reduce any risk and avoid contacts are applied, based on the UNE EN 13816:2003 regulation.
To recover that return from travellers and get back to normal, another key aspect will be to support these measures with an intense communication action that conveys to users that railway transport complies with the strictest guarantees of protection on commuting. These messages are transmitted to the population through different channels of billboard advertising in stations, social networks, newsletters, media news, etc.
There is also a desire to have direct contact with users to know their opinion by conducting surveys that allow to find out what their perception is about the health safety of railway transport.
Innovation as a response
One of the key features to address these challenges is that the railway sector has relied on innovation to provide an effective response in line with the specific needs of the current context. In this respect, collaboration with the main research centres is essential to strengthen the hygienic-sanitary protection of operations.
This joint experience has resulted in the implementation of advanced initiatives such as the reprogramming of mobile material cycles for cleaning work, the application of aseptic meshes or the testing with filters before and after disinfections to control the possible reactivation of the virus.
In addition, modern techniques of contact surface analysis are offered to users to rule out traces of bacteria.
In terms of cleaning, disinfections are being carried out with comprehensive misting in order to reduce the expenditure and ensure that deep sweeps are performed at all levels of the vehicle. The ozonized air technique is also used. To protect the vehicle fleet, very innovative and non-corrosive products are being used, based on quaternary ammonium and hydrogen peroxide, that prevent the wear and tear of certain elements of the vehicle.
Planning and information
Another advantage of applying technological advances to the current situation is that the traveller has additional support to plan their itineraries and can rely on safe and up-to-date information at all times. The systems and applications that Spanish companies have developed in recent years are now most useful and reflect the importance of having opted for R+D for many years. Citizens have tools to consult the estimated average occupancy on each line, the provision of services by time slots and other criteria of interest.
With regards to the operators, they reinforce the health safety conditions with the use of the technologies created by numerous Spanish companies.
There is currently work being done on a new methodology to ensure key aspects such as the management of passenger flows and the control of loads in real time. This prevents crowds and can provide a service appropriate to the demand. Another methodology that is being applied for capacity control is the image treatment, which can achieve an approximate actual estimation with more tan 97% level of certainty.
All these measures respond to new challenges to alleviate the impact of the pandemic. The different stakeholders have reacted quickly and efficiently to ensure that the return of railway public transport is safe and comfortable. A very proactive attitude that boosts a reactivation with all the necessary measures for a daily operation adapted to the new normal.