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Network Rail to probe blue light link with suicides

18 December 2018 · Nic Paton

Special blue lights in an anti-suicide trial at Gatwick Airport in the south of England. A new study, instigated by Network Rail, will test the theory with installations at railway stations in the north of England.

NETWORK Rail is poised to undertake innovative research into how platform and station lighting can be used to help deter people from committing suicide on the railways, a panel discussion heard at LuxLive 2018.

'We're worried about the suicide rates and people using the train system to carry out their threat,' says Peter Wasmuth of Network Rail

The debate, technically on ‘light levels, colour temperature, and mesopic vision’, ended up being a wide-ranging discussion covering everything from the impact of artificial lighting on bats, the problem of glare, challenges around retrofitting, and the growing importance of control within an increasingly digitalised lighting world.

The discussion brought together Alistair Scott, managing director of Designs for Light; Martin Valentine, global design director at Ligman Lighting; David Mooney, associate at Atkins; Blair Collier, senior design engineer at Jacobs; and Peter Wasmuth, project engineer at Network Rail.

And it was Peter Wasmuth who highlighted the upcoming Network Rail project. ‘We have been through a number of years of using blue light in stations to try and reduce the drug addict issues. But we found the drug addicts just put ballpoint pen on their arms to mark out their veins. So we’ve now dropped all that,’ he said.

‘But there is an upcoming study being done in the north for stations. Being a caring organisation, we are worried about the suicide rates and people using the train system to carry out their threat. At the ends of platforms and certain parts of canopies we are going to go into a bit of an experiment on blue light to try and reduce those or try and change people’s minds when they are in that frame of mind,’ he added.

The panel discussed the role, and growing importance, of adaptive street lighting within the urban space, with Martin Valentine highlighting an innovative scheme where the city of Helsinki in Finland has installed nearly 2km of LED streetlights that change colour temperature during the night.

Blue light in the public arena in Glasgow, Gatwick Airport and Tokyo. Experts are still divided about its effect on crime and suicides.

David Mooney highlighted how municipal authorities in Copenhagen are also breaking new ground in this area. ‘When a football match comes on in the area where the stadium is, the lighting goes up to higher levels for when the match is on. And when the match is finished, it goes back down. It is truly responsive to how the city actually lives.

‘And this is really important because the cost of energy from street lighting in the UK is, I think, about 10 per cent of what councils spend, that kind of figure. Those are big numbers. We have to stop the short-termism and put in the right solutions. It does not have to be gold plated, but it does have to deliver and be able to understand the whole life cost,’ he said.

‘I think we could encourage more and more authorities to take adaptive lighting up. Most now have some form of adaptive lighting,’ agreed Alistair Scott. ‘It is a positive change from a few years ago when a lot of local authorities were just switching off a large percentage of lights. You can now reduce light levels and get a more successful solution.’

But control, and the regulation and design of control systems, will need to be a critical part of this ongoing evolution, emphasised Blair Collier. ‘What is being missed right now is who is doing the designs for the controls? Who is regulating this? It needs to be part of the design process and I do not think it gets included enough in manufacturing briefs or as part of the larger strategy. It should be more and more included as a stand-alone part of the design process,’ he said.


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