Project: PSV Emergency Exits: Passenger Behaviour and Exit Design

Reference: S330A/VC

Last update: 11/12/2003 14:46:38


The UK Department of Transport commissioned this work in view of proposed new European regulations covering the provision of emergency exits on public service vehicles. The objectives of this study were to examine the ease, speed and safety with which passengers can use current types of emergency exit (dedicated rear doors, roof hatches, window exits and the emergency operation of service doors), and to make design recommendations.


Bus and Coach safety represents a significant area of VSE interest. Although these vehicles represent the safest form of road passenger transport, any major bus or coach accidents can result in large numbers of casualties, and a considerable degree of public concern over bus and coach safety. Entrapment in a vehicle, especially where there is a risk of fire, is a particular area of concern, not only in buses but also in other forms of public transport. All current buses and coaches have emergency exits intended to allow passengers to escape from the vehicle safely. There are usually two doors; one service and one emergency, along with break-glass windows. Escape hatches in the roof are also used.

UK requirements for emergency exits are contained within the Conditions of Initial Fitness Regulations and (in the case of minibuses) Schedule 6 of the Construction and Use Regulations 1986. In the future, requirements are likely to be based on United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Regulations or EC Directives, which are currently being discussed in Geneva and Brussels respectively. It is likely that the European proposals will require a larger number of exits than the current UK requirements, though some of these exits may be permitted to be emergency windows (of the hinged or break-glass variety) or roof hatches. These types of exits have cost advantages over full-size emergency doors, and they may also be less prone to misuse, but there is some doubt over their effectiveness in an emergency situation. A balance has to be sought between the safety improvements achieved through the use of better emergency exits, and any increased construction costs or operating difficulties which might result from such improvements.


ICE Ergonomics
Holywell Building, Holywell Way, Loughborough, Leicestershire, LE11 3UZ
+44 (0)1509 283300

Contract details

Cost to the Department: £76,530.00

Actual start date: 31 March 1994

Actual completion date: 31 December 1996


PSV Emergency Exits: Passenger Behaviour and Exit Design. Final Report
Author: ICE Ergonomics Ltd
Publication date: 31/10/1996
Source: Contact:

PSV Emergency Exits: Passenger Behaviour and Exit Design. Appendices
Author: ICE Ergonomics Ltd
Publication date: 31/10/1996
Source: Contact:

Summary of results

  1. The research found that the operating times and likelihood of passengers using break-glass windows are such that they should not count towards the emergency exit provision on buses, coaches and minibuses. This is not to debar their inclusion so long as adequate provisions for exits is made by other means. However, recognising that a large proportion of the current fleet contains such exits, the report makes recommendations for their improvement, although these cannot overcome the inherent problems with this type of exit.