Mayor Launches New Plan To Improve Air Quality On Tube

Orders more testing, more cleaning and more information for passengers

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Mayor Launches New Plan To Improve Air Quality On Tube

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The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has instigated a new review of air pollution levels on the Tube, introducing a series of measures to minimize dust levels on the Underground.

The work is part of a review the Mayor is undertaking across planning, housing, construction, transport and river services to improve London’s air and to protect Londoners from the health impacts of air pollution.

The programme includes reducing toxic vehicle emissions, with a £10 Toxicity-Charge (T-Charge) which will start in October this year, the introduction of the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in 2019 (subject to consultation), and the cleaning up of London’s public transport fleets such as buses and taxis using 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 independent scientific research funded by TfL 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.

Given that more than 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.

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.

As well as the evidence review, TfL has launched a new air quality action plan on the Underground to deliver improvements straight away. This includes an enhanced air quality monitoring programme on the Tube network, with information made easily and publicly available on the TfL website.

Testing will be carried out at more than a dozen stations, and involve dozens of staff and simulated passenger journeys to monitor how dust levels change at different times and locations. Testing equipment installed on the Tube will take much larger samples than ever before to inform London Underground’s approach to minimizing dust.

An expanded cleaning regime will be introduced, with increased cleaning of the Tube network’s tunnels, stations and other locations wherever needed. Over the summer nearly 50 stations and five tunnel sections will be cleaned, with industrial vacuum cleaners and magnetic ‘wands’ being used each night in tunnels. These will collect metal particles and ensure tunnel walls are left clear of accumulations of dust, oil and grease. Air quality monitoring will be carried out at these new locations before and after cleaning to ensure it is effective, with the results informing the frequency of future cleaning programmes. This enhanced regime will work alongside TfL’s current regular deep cleaning of every line, vent shaft, station, machine room and switch room across the Tube network.

This summer the Mayor will launch new plans to help tackle pollution at construction sites and funding for greener, less polluting vessels on the River Thames. He will also launch new air quality rules for the housing sector and other developments in the forthcoming London Plan.

June 23, 2017

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