8.6 Symbolic deterrent fencing

This measure refers to partial fences used only to inform people that access is forbidden and to deter behaviour. Although it is a physical artefact, symbolic fencing has a non-physical effect mechanism. This measure is not expected to influence directly the access to the tracks as a solid fence would do. Instead it is expected to influence the decision to enter the tracks by guiding people’s movement at stations as well as directing and supporting correct behaviour. From this viewpoint the symbolic barrier is supposed to act as an implicit prohibitive sign.
  • In order to better understand the psychological mechanism behind this measure think of the crowd control barriers, retractable belts, or posts with chain, rope or cable used in many other situations (e.g. temporary events, to guide queues or just to mark a limit).
  • Avoid sharp edges.
  • Use visible colors (e.g. red and white) or reflective materials.
  • Can be combined with messages (informative, warning or prohibitive). For example you may include signage stating "No Entry" or "No Pedestrians". However, it is not clear if such a message actually makes the measure more efficient.
  • Putting transparent intermittent fences on the platforms, which do not obstruct boarding and getting off the train, and which mark a no-standing area on the platform until a train has stopped (van Houwelingen, 2011).
  • Using ’flexible barriers’ on platforms to reduce the risk of trespass between platform ends and the operational railway at station crossings.
  • Symbolic fencing does not completely restrict access to the tracks. Where installed, the possibility of direct contact between persons and moving trains remains high.
  • A symbolic fence can be much cheaper than a solid and rigorous fence because it can be made of light materials such as plastic or wood.
  • Fences can also be used as a psychological deterrents rather than physical barriers. Less rigorous fences may as well influence people’s behaviour by indicating the boundary of an area with restricted admission (Rådbo, Svedung, & Andersson, 2008).
  • Studies by Fredin-Knutzén et al., 2022 and Hemmer et al., 2017 support this theory.

last update: 2022-11-30 Print