The basic standard US LRV structural designs are virtually unchanged from those adopted 25 years ago based on a modified European subway car. With only one exception, these have not been significantly updated for or adapted to the high levels of in-street running found more and more on new light rail systems or for increased passenger safety in general. Today in Europe, the overall structural design approach for LRVs is to absorb initial collision energy without any structural damage. To evaluate this approach, the four most common vehicle collision scenarios are first identified and quantified. Then European operational experience, particularly as regards accidents, is presented and analyzed. From these, we can see that further improvements to US rail vehicle design safety, especially to interior spaces, are both overdue and inevitable. Recent US LRV structural safety standard developments are considered and recommendations are proposed for incorporation into new light rail vehicle designs.

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