The air quality at five stations on the Greater Anglia network have become part of a national study aimed at measuring air quality on the railway.
Monitoring started this month at Cambridge, Ely, Ipswich, Norwich, and Stansted Airport stations.
They will join 100 other stations across the country in contributing to the Stations Air Quality Monitoring Network, which is organised by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) and funded by the Department of Transport.
The aim of the study is to provide information on the current state of air quality in stations across the rail network. It will also provide data about the air quality at specific locations, which will help the public to check on the air quality at their local stations.
The study will help to set a baseline for air quality levels. That can then be used to prioritise any necessary improvements and assess how effective the measures are at minimising pollution and improving air quality at railway stations.
To measure the levels of the pollutant nitrogen oxide, ‘diffusion tubes’ will be placed around each station to monitor the ambient air quality. That is a well-established way to determine long-term pollution concentration levels.
Diffusion tubes will be placed at different areas around the stations and will be changed each month. Data that they collect will be reviewed after 12 months and analysed over a two-year period.
Travelling by train is the most environmentally-friendly form of transport other than walking and cycling. Findings from the study will help the rail industry to understand whether any further improvements can be made to reduce the environmental impact of rail travel, as well as how other factors such as bus and taxi traffic outside stations may contribute to air pollution.
Last year, for the second year running, Greater Anglia reduced its total carbon emissions by 11% for scope 1 and 2 emissions. New energy management systems installed at stations have recently saved more than 1000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from being emitted into the atmosphere.
As a step to improving the air quality at towns and villages across its network, Greater Anglia recently joined with Network Rail and the region’s Community Rail Partnerships to ask car drivers to switch off their engines when waiting at level crossings.
Greater Anglia’s Energy and Environment Manager, Steph Evans, said “I’m pleased that Greater Anglia is involved in this study and that we will be able to gain a greater understanding of air quality at some of our stations so that we can ensure they are clean, healthy places to wait.
“Thanks to our new bi-mode trains, we are already improving air quality at our stations because these trains can switch from diesel to electric power when they are waiting at a station if overhead wires are available. This means they do not have to idle their engines in order to keep the lights and heating on, as they can take power from the station’s overhead power lines instead.
“The Stations Air Quality Monitoring Network is the first of its kind for GB rail and we look forward to seeing the RSSB’s report and baseline data to find out how we are performing and if there is anything we can do to improve air quality.”
RSSB Air Quality Specialist, Philbert Chan said: “We have to ensure air quality is at an acceptable level to protect passenger and workers health.
“This is the first large-scale organised air quality monitoring campaign on the railway network, using state-of-the-art equipment, to ensure data obtained is as robust and reliable as possible.
“RSSB’s analysis of the data collected will provide valuable information on air pollution, at stations across the country, allowing action to be taken to improve air quality where necessary.”