Redesigning a commuter rail system to accommodate passengers with special needs
Vaal University of Technology
In South Africa, the provision of equitable and accessible public transport is still in the early stage of development and growth. PRASA has adopted programmes that drive and promote the implementation and integration of a universal design that should meet the varying requirements of its customers. PRASA acknowledges that its facilities should be focused on the delivery of public service that acts as a catalyst and enabler within South Africa in overcoming differentiation in gender, race, income, opportunity and mobility. Facilities’ managers and especially rail managers, through facilities planning, should provide proactive service delivery to its stakeholders. In South Africa, the majority of train stations are not designed to cater for persons with special needs. Therefore, these facilities must comply with national imperatives; resulting in a need to design new facilities or redesign current train stations’ facilities so as to accommodate the diversity of human characteristics within the population, as a whole, in order to promote equal access to services and opportunities for persons with disabilities as expected in all spheres of government. This means that there are dynamic and heterogeneous elements that should be controlled in the commuter rail system design. The redesigning of some train stations had been undertaken and improvements achieved at some train stations e.g. Gautrain. The issue that arises is that there cannot be a one-to-one transfer of model to design another facilities. This is due to the constraints of space, monetary costs and information on customers or level of activeness in the facility. Companies don’t always have a lot of money at their disposal making money to become an issue. If there’s an abundance of space then one can design the train layout the way he/she wants. However this is not always the case and therefore, the available space has to be planned accordingly. Furthermore, one needs to know information on (the number of) their customers in order to plan and be able to meet their requirements. This project proposes the use of an improved flow-pattern measurement technique (i.e. integration of techniques), specifically improved From-To-Chart techniques, to assess the efficiency of the current layout while considering the constraints of variables expectations from customers and variable rewards for rendering services to different types of customers. An improved and effective layout was then proposed. The efficiency of the proposed new layout was compared with that of previous layout so as to ascertain on stakeholders’ confidence. Simulated Annealing was also used to compare different peak periods and their efficiencies so as to decide on the layout that is suitable for the commuter rail system under the different peak scenario. The Direct Clustering Algorithm was furthermore employed to try to group facilities that render similar services into cells so as to minimise movement or material handling. Results revealed that a flexible train station layout whose flow pattern can be regularly adjusted to minimize costs and to accommodate the ever-increasing expectations should be adopted. It is hoped that station managers who adopt such guides will improve on customer’s expectations.
M. Tech. (Industrial Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Technology), Vaal University of Technology.
Commuter rail system, Passengers with special needs, PRASA - Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa