How to ensure that metro systems work in emergency?

Underground trains are fast, reliable and unaffected by traffic congestion on the roads. No wonder they are so popular within cities all over the world. In the French capital Paris, for example, an average of 4.2 million people uses the metro every day. In Berlin, the number of subway passengers has increased by almost 20 per cent since 2008 to over half a billion a year. 

However, minor incidents may have major effects on metro networks. So how do they have to be designed to ensure reliable operation or to resume operation as quickly as possible in case of breakdowns like fires or blackouts? U-THREAT, a Franco-German research project, that PTV is also involved in, is working on this.  

Since the start of the project in 2017, the researchers have initially built up database of critical threats, events, and scenariosThe PTV research team is developing an evaluation methodology that helps identify the vulnerability of individual sections of the underground system. 

Based on our software PTV Visum we can identify critical stops and points in the network and assess their ‘vulnerability’ under operational aspects”, Dr Charlotte Fléchon from the PTV Research Team explains. “Within the model, we can also simulate the incident and evaluate the impact of certain measures. For example, what happens if metro station breaks downWhat are the resulting additional travel times of the directly or indirectly affected users in the network? 

Additionally, the twelve project partners from various university institutions, research institutes, associations, transport companies and enterprises, are working on a safety concept.  In an emergency, passengers need to be able to leave the underground station quickly and safely. 

We recently had the opportunity to test and evaluate our results and solution in a large-scale exercise in the Lyon metro, says the PTV researcher. We received helpful feedback from the participating passengers, firefighters and numerous observers. And we were able to gain a lot of new insights, for example into the interaction between self-rescue and external rescue.

The scientific evaluation is now being included in further research work. The U-THREAT research project will run until summer 2020.


U-THREAT is part of the ‘Research for civil security’ programme and is funded as part of the ‘Future safety in urban spaces’ funding announcement by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR).

Project duration: August 2017 – July 2020 

Project volume: EUR 2.2 million

No task is too small or too large: PTV Visum is the worldwide standard for macroscopic modelling.

Leave a Reply