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Department for Transport to Examine Poor Air Quality on UK Trains

Department for Transport to Examine Poor Air Quality on UK Trains
21 September 2021

The Department for Transport has commissioned further research into poor indoor air quality levels on trains.

The review is to ensure air quality standards and regulations are fit for purpose following concerning findings that air quality on some diesel trains is “poorer than desired”.

The initial research, conducted by independent Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) on six types of train, has identified issues whilst measuring pollutants including nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter throughout the duration of train journeys.

It demonstrates that on-train concentrations of nitrogen dioxide can peak at levels ranging from one to thirteen times higher than identified next to major central London roads. Peaks most frequently occur when trains are in tunnels or idling in stations.

Whilst these pollutant levels are verified as within legal limits, the government has stated that it is committed to “meet the very highest standards.”

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “While these findings are within limits, I do not believe people should have to accept anything less than the highest levels of air quality.

“I have asked the industry to immediately conduct further research and explore all engineering modifications and options to rapidly improve air quality on trains and in stations.”


Government Review Commissioned


The Department for Transport (DfT) has asked the RSSB to publish the full findings and has commissioned a review of all the regulations and standards that currently control air pollution and people’s exposure to it on the rail network. This will include on-board services as well as in stations.

DfT has also commissioned further research, managed by RSSB, to help better understand the scale of the air quality issue onboard trains and to identify potential causes and solutions. This work will include measuring air quality levels inside a further 8 train classes in service across the country’s rail network.

The work forms part of the broader Air Quality Strategic Framework, which details RSSB’s recommended approach for monitoring, modelling and mitigation. Most recently, this has included kicking off a £4.5 million Stations Air Quality Monitoring Network to focus on measuring air quality at train stations across England and Wales and provide high quality and robust data.

Picture: a photograph of the interior of a train carriage, showing seats and an aisle 

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 21 September 2021


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