“Transit and rail is very safe compared to other modes of land transportation,” Stuart said. “But when things go wrong, it can be very bad.”
With that in mind, WSP starts by identifying anything that could potentially go wrong. Each project presents risks and hazards differently.
For example, a high-speed rail line—where trains can travel 220 miles per hour—will present a different set of outcomes compared to a light rail train that tops out at 55 miles per hour. Each requires different mitigation strategies.
WSP, which is consulting with design teams for the California High-Speed Rail and Texas Bullet projects, provides key data that is shaping how those rail lines will eventually operate.
“California High-Speed Rail involved us early in the conceptual design,” Stuart said. Because of that early involvement, we could advise the client regarding land acquisition, such as proximity to oil wells, which poses environmental concerns. They were able to adjust the track alignment early in the design, eliminating unnecessary costs to acquire additional land down the road.”
Other mitigation strategies included elimination of all at-grade crossings, security access controls, throw fences at overpasses and inspection techniques to keep the tracks clear.
WSP also evaluates potential fire and life safety and security hazards, such as in tunnels where fumes and inadequate ventilation could be hazardous to passengers.
“We are looking for anything that might harm people or negatively impact the system or the environment around the system,” Stuart said.