Old diesel engines increase pollution levels at Edinburgh's Waverley station

CAMPAIGNERS have called on rail bosses to end the use of older diesel trains after a study found excessive air pollution at Edinburgh’s Waverley station.

Tuesday, 2nd July 2019, 5:49 pm
Waverley station was found to exceed its annual NO2 limit in just two weeks
Waverley station was found to exceed its annual NO2 limit in just two weeks

The research, led by academics at Edinburgh University and King’s College, London, found the Capital’s main railway station exceeded annual limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in just two weeks.

Average levels of toxic particulate matter were also found to be higher inside the station than outside, although not breaching legal limits.

The study said a “strong positive association was observed between the number of diesel trains and the concentration” of NO2. The gas irritates the eyes, nose and throat and has been linked with breathing problems.

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Waverley has 491 trains a day running on diesel, about 59 per cent of the total.

The study said average NO2 levels were 86.5 micrograms per cubic metre of air, 57 per cent higher than the level directly outside the station and more than double the average annual legal limit of 40 mcgs.

Average readings were as high as 103 mcgs next to the station’s platform 14, where many trains terminate, leaving their engines idling.

The study also looked at London’s King’s Cross station and found similar issues.

Under EU law, NO2 should not exceed 200 micrograms 18 times a year. However, the study said: “Both stations breached this target after two weeks. This is similar to standing close to a very heavily trafficked road in a city centre.”

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “People will be rightly concerned about the levels of air pollution in these train stations.

“We know from the devastation wrought by road traffic that these pollutants are deeply harmful to our health. Trains should be a major part of the solution to climate and air pollution problems but that requires train operators and train crews making sure older trains are never left idling between journeys. The slow pace of rail electrification means there are old diesel trains still running through stations long after they should be.

“As Scottish railways hopefully continue their excellent growth in passenger numbers we hope that ScotRail and Scottish Government, along with Network Rail, can get the oldest engines off the track and ensure people are protected.”

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “Rail is the greenest way of moving people and goods in large numbers, but there is still much more we can do as an industry. We recognise Diesel Engine Exhaust Emissions as an emerging issue at some of our managed stations and have commissioned research to improve our understanding and inform the actions we are already taking and intend to take in future.

“This will help make these station environments more pleasant and safer.”