Evaluation and Optimization of Snow/Ice Control Operations for Railway Platforms
Development of relevant guidelines that Go Transit could use for implementing a
cost-effective platform winter maintenance program.
Railway platforms must be kept free of snow and ice all the time as any slip falls at these locations could have fatal consequences. At the platforms that do not have canopies or snow melting systems installed, this high level of service requirement would mean that snow and ice control operations, such as plowing and salting, must be deployed frequently and/or excessively. However, snow clearing operations on a railway platform could interfere with the normal operation of the train service, which is a significant safety concern. As a result, railway flagmen have to be deployed to coordinate the snow clearing and train operations, which is not only costly itself but also imposes additional constraints on when plowing and salting can be done. The availability of flagmen is often limited, creating uncertainty as to when the crew can plow and salt the platform during a significant storm event. Therefore, heavier-than-usual amounts of salts are commonly applied to maintain an acceptable level of safety.
However, excessive application of salts could cause several other problems. First of all, salts have been shown to be detrimental to the environment and corrosive to the infrastructure (e.g., platform concrete, lamp posts, shelters and tracks) and vehicles. Secondly, salt residuals on the platform could be carried into the trains by passengers, causing door malfunctions and damages to the train body. Lastly, residual salt runoff from the platform is a strong electrolyte at a high level of concentration, which could cause nearby crossing signals to be short-circuited.
To address these challenges, GO Transit is developing a comprehensive winter maintenance plan to reduce salt use while maintaining a safe walking and waiting environment for its patrons. An integral component of this plan is to adopt practices that reduce salt use, such as Environment Canada’s Best Salt Management Practices, anti-icing strategies, and use of pre-wetted salt, brine, and organic alternatives. However, no scientific and uniform guidelines currently exist on what snow and ice control methods, materials, and application rates should be applied for railway platforms. The primary goal of this project is to develop relevant guidelines that Go Transit could use for implementing a cost effective platform winter maintenance program.