Open-gangway vs. Closed-gangway rolling stock

1st January, 1970

Open-gangway vs. Closed-gangway rolling stock

As you might have discovered from viral videos online, overcrowding continues to be a major issue in a number of world class cities’ rail transport systems. To solve this global issue, many have adopted the ‘open-gangway’ approach, aka the centipede train.

A centipede train, as you might’ve already figured out, is a train which is openly connected from front to end. Unlike traditional trains, there are no walls and doors between each carriage, meaning the space found between carriages can be used. As a result, the train’s capacity is increased.

Despite being a clear solution to an ongoing problem, not everyone has opted for this option, with some remaining loyal to the traditional, closed-gangway trains.

So why have some opted for the new approach?

One clear advantage for train operators is higher revenue. Higher capacity means more passengers, and thus more income. Beside this obvious benefit, open-gangway trains allow passengers to redistribute themselves whilst the train is moving. Therefore congestion in certain carriages can be spread into less crowded areas, improving customer experience. Subsequently, train operators receive more profits and travellers enjoy a more desirable journey, a win-win right?

The shadowing drawbacks…

Although more revenue is great for business, the centipede train demands a more active fire protection system in comparison to closed-gangway trains. These systems are differentiated by the way they operate, active systems requires action e.g manually – fire extinguishers or automatically – sprinklers; whereas passive systems help to slow or prevent the spread of smoke or fire from one space to another e.g. fire resistant glass, walls and coatings.

No matter in what situation, both are equally important. However, as you can imagine, sprinklers can cause damage to assets as it discharges water throughout the train. Consequently, train operators are forced to refit materials on the train, generating additional costs. To make things worse, false alarms do occur from time to time, meaning sprinklers can be in full force even if there was no real fire. 

On the contrary, traditional closed-gangway train have walls and doors separating the carriages. This passive fire protection system has a huge benefit as it compartmentalises the train, prolonging escape time for passengers during a fire.

If you want to find out the benefits of open-gangway rolling stock beyond increased passenger space, and fire safety implications caused by open-gangway, join us at this year’s Fire Protection in Rolling Stock conference! Find out more here:


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