Rail drivers’ union demands Waverley pollution cut

Pollution levels are too high at Waverley. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Pollution levels are too high at Waverley. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Britain’s chief train drivers’ union has demanded action to cut pollution at Waverley Station, with fears workers are being poisoned by diesel fumes and toxic dust.

Aslef wrote to Network Rail and train operators including ScotRail, East Coast and Virgin last Friday asking what they intended to do about reducing dangerous emissions inside the station.

The union has branded conditions under the roof as unacceptable in the wake of monitoring results carried out in October and November last year which revealed air pollution levels up to seven times higher than safety limits.

Nitrogen dioxide – produced by vehicle exhaust and capable of damaging lungs, blood and immune systems – was recorded in four areas around Waverley’s concourse.

Readings varied from 205 to 304 micrograms per cubic metre, soaring above the annual average “air quality standard” of 40 set down by European law.

Network Rail claimed improved ventilation and restrictions on vehicle access had helped solve the problem, but Aslef Scottish secretary Kevin Lindsay said the union was far from satisfied.

He said: “We’re asking what actions they’re going to take. We’ll be looking for changes as soon as possible. We want each of the companies to take the necessary steps to improve the air quality in the station.”

Mr Lindsay said forcing diesel locomotives to stop at outer platforms rather than under the station’s canopy was one possibility.

Waverley, currently undergoing a £100 million refurbishment, is the only mainline station in the UK to allow road vehicles like taxis, cars and delivery trucks inside.

Green MSP Alison Johnstone lodged a question with Scottish Parliament asking what action the Government could take to guarantee Waverley did not breach safe air pollution limits.

She said: “It’s ludicrous that people working in the station – those who have the greatest exposure to the fumes and particulates – are expected to 
tolerate the conditions.”

A Network Rail spokesman said: “Air quality within the station has improved since the removal of scaffolding from the roof and we expect to see additional improvements once we have limited vehicle access.

“We are committed to improving air quality, having already limited the amount of time trains can run their engines while stationary, and we will continue to assess what other operational changes we can introduce in the future.”

Highly toxic

SCIENTISTS found highly toxic diesel pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were four times higher at Waverley Station than the relevant standard.

World Health Organisation findings have shown such exhaust fumes are a definite cause of lung cancer and may also cause tumours in the bladder.

The decision puts diesel fumes in the same risk category as noxious substances such as asbestos, arsenic and mustard gas.