Digital Transit Limited, in partnership with Ian Rowe Associates Ltd, are working on the future of safety on Manchester trams.

Recent incidents have brought the issue of coupled tram safety to public attention in Manchester and to the Rail Regulator. Examples of this include a viral video of a man tram surfing between two carriages on the Metrolink in Rochdale who, whilst not injured, was still putting himself and others at great risk. Another example is a man in Manchester who fell in the gap between two coupled trams at a tram stop.

DTL are performing a feasibility study to determine whether a system comprising a thermal camera and image processing software can reliably detect when a person is in a position of danger between the two trams, and whether they are ‘tram surfing’ on the coupling or have fallen into the gap created by the platform and the tapered front of the trams.

This study is part of a larger project by Ian Rowe Associates Ltd to determine the optimal method by which to detect people falling into the gap between two coupled trams and tram surfing. This will be tested with a variety of tools including smart cameras and LiDAR. The project will use both computer simulations as well as real-world testing to evaluate the different vision options. The ultimate goal is to have a system which lowers the risk of double trams to be equivalent to the risk level of single trams.

At the Trafford tram depot in Manchester, DTL had access to a tram for two days, including a driver. Two cameras were set up, one on each side of the coupling. Footage was recorded from various angles and positions, and at different times throughout the day. All this footage will be used to produce a vision system that can detect people between the trams.

A preliminary version of this system was tested, and the results can be seen below.

Digital Transit look forward to further developing this technology, with aims to integrate this system across the Metrolink fleet.

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