London - British researchers said they have developed train carriages that can reduce deaths and injuries in terror attacks by using plastic-coated windows and measures to prevent flying debris.
The New Rail research centre at Newcastle University analysed the carriages hit in the 7 July 2005 attacks on the London Underground and conducted a test explosion on a decommissioned carriage to study the impact on its structure.
The three-year SecureMetro project focused on containing the blast impact and reducing debris, which is the main cause of death and injury in such explosions and an obstacle for the emergency services trying to reach injured passengers.
The researchers on the EU-funded project said the solutions they developed were relatively cheap to implement.
They conducted another test explosion on a prototype design, which had ceiling panels and features held in place with retention wire and plastic-coated windows to prevent potentially lethal glass shards being blown outward.
The new design also had lighter, energy-absorbing materials in place of heavier structures.
"The Madrid bombings in 2004 and the 7/7 attack in London the year after highlighted how vulnerable our trains are to attack - particularly busy metro and commuter trains," said project leader Conor O'Neill.
"Completely replacing existing vehicles just isn't an option. Instead, we have developed and incorporated new technology and materials into existing carriages to improve performance.
"What we've shown is that companies could make some relatively cost-effective and simple modifications that would significantly improve the outcome of an attack."
In blowing up the decommissioned metro carriage, the team looked at how the blast wave progressed along the coach to understand how the interior features reacted.
Using high-speed cameras, they examined the blast in slow motion.
"Preventing flying objects is the key," said O'Neill.
"Tethering ceiling panels reduced the risk of fatalities and injury from flying shrapnel and also meant the gangways were kept relatively clear of debris.
"The window coating we developed was also incredibly effective. Without it the windows are blown outward - putting anyone outside, such as those standing on a platform, at risk from flying glass.
"With the plastic coating you see a clear rippling effect as the blast moves through the train but every window remains intact apart from the safety windows which are designed to be easily knocked out."
O'Neill said a bomb on a train was always going to be devastating but there were clear ways to help mitigate their impact.
"These are all low-cost, simple solutions that can be put on existing trains which could not only save lives but also reduce the attractiveness of our railways for potential terrorist attacks," he said.
The project says it is in a position to advise the rail industry in redesigning carriages.