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At Amsterdam Schiphol Airport there are prominent No Balloons signs on each entrance to train platforms.

Sign that reads 'No balloons'

What is the story or rationale behind that ban?

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I recently wondered about it myself. I noticed the sign next to the escalators leading to the underground train station, where balloons could easily get stuck and/or make contact with the overhead lines. I don't actually know how dangerous that would be or if that's the reason behind the signs but it seems to make sense. – Relaxed Aug 3 '14 at 15:49
I did it too, nice question. – edocetirwi May 2 at 20:36
up vote 55 down vote accepted

I found this article. Loosely translated:

Station Schiphol disallows balloons since recently. The reason for this is that it has happened a few times last year that a kid's ballon hit the overhead power lines, often resulting in smoke and smouldering particles.

Because the smoke alarm is very sensitive, because of safety concerns with the long train tunnel, this will set off the alarm very quickly. When that happens, the tunnel and the entire train station have to be evacuated. This leads to major discomfort for travellers who will face delays.

I commute by train and remember that Schiphol trains were cancelled quite often because of smoke in the tunnel last year, but I didn't know that balloons were the cause...

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In the Netherlands with "merely" 1,500V overhead power, the problem might just be smoke and an unnecessary fire alarm. In ohter European countries with 15,000V or 25,000V overhead power, air balloons have been prohibited in several railway stations for quite some time. Especially metal foil, helium filled balloons can be a serious hazard when let loose near high-voltage overhead lines. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Aug 3 '14 at 18:32
Schiphol is one of the 3 Dutch Thalys stations, and Thalys in the Netherlands does run on 25 kv - just not inside stations. – MSalters Aug 3 '14 at 23:04
And indeed over the last several months there have been no smoke alarms in the tunnel, so the policy seems to be effective. – jwenting Aug 4 '14 at 6:58
Incidents with balloons have also happened in Hong Kong, and there are regular voice announcements detailing that 'metallic balloons are not permitted in stations or trains'. For the interested, here's an article on it: Rush hour chaos may foil balloons on MTR – Greg Kopff Aug 4 '14 at 12:26
In fact, here's a details of incidents from Hong Kong, Sweden, and Australia. – Greg Kopff Aug 4 '14 at 12:31

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