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Railway station emergency warning systems: exploring best practice

An often overlooked but critical aspect of railway station designs is the emergency warning system, hearing loops and public address loudspeakers system design. Safety of passengers and ensuring equal access to all are key tenets of our design approach for railway stations. However, the industry design standards and guidelines that underpin this approach are often outdated, insufficient and sometimes contradict the very aims they seek to meet.

The aim of this project was to research on a national and international scale to identify and understand best practice standards and guidelines relating to emergency warning systems, PA loudspeaker and hearing loop designs for railway stations. We identified opportunities for incorporating the research findings into railway design standards, with specific focus on applicability in Australia. Our findings can be used as an advocacy document to rail authorities.

Through the research, we were able to establish recommended design parameters including guidance around signal-to-noise ratios of loudspeakers, interfacing the PA system design with the acoustics design, use of digital transport protocols, incorporation of maintenance and commissioning procedures, and integration of elements from voice alarm systems.

Some recommendations were an optimisation of existing practices, whereas others were more significant technological step changes that would require system-wide transformation.

Aspects of this work can be implemented immediately into projects to improve the design parameters for PA systems in railway stations. One specific example is to tackle the issue around the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of loudspeaker outputs.


We prepared a presentation to key infrastructure stakeholders in the railway industry in Australia, including railway operators and government transport authorities. This provides rail system authorities with a significant level of information to support and inform their decision making around establishing and updating existing public address (PA) and audio-frequency induction loop (AFIL) standards.