Exhaust fumes from trains and taxis, coupled with toxic dust kicked up by construction works, are endangering the health of commuters, tourists and workers – particularly those with asthma, lung or heart conditions, experts say.
Politicians have reacted with shock and horror to the revelations, and are demanding urgent action to protect the 25 million people who use the station annually. Network Rail, the company that runs Waverley, says it is doing what it can to cut the pollution.
Waverley, situated in a low, glass-roofed hollow in the centre of the capital, is one of the busiest stations in the UK outside London. It seems it may also be one of the most polluted.
It is the only British mainline railway station that still allows vehicles, including taxis, private cars and delivery trucks, to drive right inside it. It is also three-quarters of the way through a four-year, £100 million revamp, which means almost constant cutting, drilling and pounding, confining passengers under scaffolding and awnings.
To help assess the risks of air pollution, Network Rail commissioned consultants to monitor the station continually for three weeks in October and November. Their report was released to the Sunday Herald last week, after repeated requests.
Scientists measured levels of nitrogen dioxide, a gas emitted by vehicle exhausts that damages the lungs, blood and immune system, at four locations around the concourse. They found average levels varying from 205 to 304 micrograms per cubic metre, compared with the annual average “air quality standard” of 40 required by European law.