MILLIONS of passengers at Scotland’s second-busiest train station are being poisoned by air pollution levels up to seven times higher than safety limits.
Exhaust fumes from trains and taxis, as well as toxic dust kicked up by construction work at Edinburgh’s Waverley station pose a risk to passengers’ health, a Network Rail study has found.
The station has 25 million users annually, and those with asthma, lung or heart conditions are most at risk from the fumes, including diesel pollutants which can cause cancer.
Network Rail, which runs Waverley, commissioned consultants to monitor the station in October and November this year, and politicians branded the results “horrifying”. The station, which has a low, glass roof, is undergoing a £100 million refurbishment, and is one of the busiest rail hubs outside London.
It is the only mainline station in the UK to allow road vehicles including taxis, cars and delivery trucks to drive inside.
Scientists measured levels of nitrogen dioxide, a product of vehicle exhaust which can damage lungs blood and immune systems, in four areas.
The recorded averages varied from 205 to 304 microgrammes per cubic metre, while the annual average air quality standard set down by European law is 40.
These concentrations were four to six times higher than the streets surrounding the station.
Experts say that at peak times the levels would be even higher than another legal limit of 200 microgrammes per cubic metre for one hour’s exposure.
The scientists also found high levels of particles called PM10s, which can inflame lung tissue and increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
These were almost twice as high as the air quality standard, and up to 10 times higher than nearby streets.
Dr Sean Semple, an air pollution expert from Aberdeen University, said: “The levels of pollution at Waverley station are significantly higher than in the surrounding streets, and may breach internationally agreed air quality standards.”
Nationalist MSP Alyn Smith has written to Network Rail demanding more information.
He said: “As a regular user of the station, I am horrified. The European standards are set to protect health and should be met. Public health cannot be put at risk in this way. This must be dealt with.”
Network Rail said it was “extremely difficult” to keep pollution to levels found in the streets outside, but said measures had been brought in to help tackle the problem.
A spokesman said: “We have conducted a detailed monitoring exercise to assess air quality within the station and we are confident that the conditions do not present a risk to staff or passengers.
“Rail is already the greenest form of transport and We are committed to further improving air quality within the station by limiting the amount of time trains can run their engines while stationary in Waverley, and restricting vehicle access.
“The new station roof is also substantially better ventilated than in the past, while the number of electric services using the station will increase … further reducing the number of diesel engines.”