London Mayor launches plan to improve air quality on the London Underground

29 June 2017  •  Author(s): Eurotransport

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has instigated a new review of air pollution levels on the Tube, introducing a series of measures to minimise dust levels on the Underground to ensure staff and passengers breathe the cleanest air possible.

London Mayor launches plan to improve air quality on the London Underground

The Mayor and TfL have doubled investment in tackling air quality to £875 million over the next five years, with the programme aiming to reduce toxic vehicle emissions, introducing the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in 2019 (subject to consultation), and cleaning up London’s public transport fleets so that they lead the way in ultra-low emission technology.

A combination of the friction from Tube trains against their rails, air ventilated into the Tube network from above ground and skin particles from passengers all contribute to dust in the Tube system. Previous research in 2004 found that the composition of dust particles on the Tube was different from that above ground, and concluded that the dust did not contain components at levels which are likely to pose a risk to the health of passengers or staff. However, given that over a decade has passed since then, the Mayor has now asked TfL to commission an updated review of the evidence.

The findings of this review will help prioritise action to ensure that London’s Tube system is as clean and healthy as possible.

“It is now time to focus on wider sources of pollution including the Tube”

“Air quality is one of the biggest health challenges of this generation and I’m committed to doing everything in my power to tackle it both above and below ground,” said Mr Khan. “I’ve introduced new measures to lower emissions from cars and buses, and it is now time to focus on wider sources of pollution including the Tube, river transport and construction sites.”

TfL has also launched a new air quality action plan on the Underground to deliver improvements straight away, including:

  • An enhanced air quality monitoring programme on the Tube network
  • Testing to be carried out to monitor how dust levels change at different times and location
  • An expanded cleaning regime to be introduced
  • Learning from the best examples of dust management in metros around the world, and implementing these on the Underground where possible
  • Further improvements as the Tube modernisation programme continues
  • Expanding the use of a replacement fuel for diesel generators that are used to power tools used in maintenance and upgrade work underground
  • Exploring and expanding the use of specialist dust suppressants across the network.

“We have been monitoring dust levels on the Tube for many years and, through a wide range of measures, have ensured that particle levels are well within Health & Safety Executive guidelines,” added Mark Wild, Managing Director of London Underground. “But as scientific understanding of the effects of particles develops, we are ensuring that we’re both using the very latest research and that we’re doing everything possible to keep the air underground clean for our customers and staff.”

TfL has requested independent support and advice from the Department of Health’s independent expert Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP), which provides advice on the health effects of air pollutants.

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