RESIDENTS fear their health is being put at risk because of “carcinogenic” fumes billowing from a train depot just yards from their homes.
Trains at the East Coast Craigentinny Depot in Portobello idle overnight to provide enough electricity to work on the vehicles.
But the resulting fumes have led to complaints from householders in nearby Stanley Street.
One resident claims his family can taste diesel fumes when they leave their windows open on warm nights.
The issue was discussed at a public meeting chaired by Edinburgh East MSP Kenny McAskill and attended by representatives from East Coast.
In a letter calling for action, Stanley street resident Nigel Richardson said: “In the morning, we sometimes awaken with the taste of diesel in our mouths.
“I suspect when a breeze blows in our direction, the exhaust plume from the idling trains, which are only 40m away, comes into our bedrooms and those of our neighbours. In fact, whichever direction the wind blows, the plume will be carried in that direction, into the surrounding streets.”
In July, the World Health Organisation officially classified all diesel exhaust fumes in the same category as asbestosis and tobacco.
Mr Richardson added: “Diesel exhaust causes death from cancer. Diesel exhaust is in the highest grade of carcinogen.
“Given the trains by our houses are in effect idling for hours, this represents a clear and present health danger. Although the trains ideally should not be passing back and forth our street all night, at least if they were quickly put on to their electrical hook-up rather than idling, then they could be maintained without slowly killing those people in the vicinity.”
The depot, which has been in use for more than 100 years, employs 240 people. Earlier this year, the News reported on residents’ concerns about the level of noise from the depot.
An acoustic barrier is among measures being considered by East Coast Rail, but there is concern this could make the level of fumes worse, particularly for workers.
It is understood it would cost £850,000 for the East Coast trains to install an alternative electricity source which would not require the trains to idle.
Councillor Maureen Child said: “The diesel trains are producing noxious gas including carbon monoxide.
“It would cost £850,000 for a national operation like East Coast to deal with such a big issue – I don’t see why they aren’t doing it.”
A spokesman for the Office of Rail Regulation said: “We are aware of this complaint and we are going to be looking in to it.”
An East Coast spokesman said: “A meeting with residents of Craigentinny depot was held on Tuesday 14 August to discuss concerns around increased noise and emission levels from the depot.
“The meeting was held to let residents know about the steps East Coast is taking steps to address residents’ concerns including a new service routine improvements during out-of-hours work, the construction of a noise-absorbing fence that will run along the boundary of Portobello sidings, adjacent to Stanley Street. We are employing independent environmental consultants to test emissions around the depot to make sure they adhere to the necessary health and safety standards.
“We take our responsibilities to our neighbours concerns very seriously and are engaging with them to address their concerns.”