Levels of particulates, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide – all of which have been implicated in health problems, including lung disease, heart conditions and premature death – were higher than roadside conditions at nearby Marylebone Road and North Kensington, the report in the journal Environmental Research Letters showed.
While guidelines are in place to control ‘outdoor’ air quality, UK rail stations are not required to comply with air quality standards and emissions from diesel trains quickly accumulate in a semi-enclosed railway station like Paddington.
“We looked at several measures of air quality,” said Adam Boies, lead author on the paper. “And we’ve shown that there are a number of times where the nitrogen dioxide concentrations exceed the EU hourly mean limits for outdoor air quality.”
Measurements were made at five locations around Paddington Station, covering two platforms, the main cooking area, a main exit and the roadside.
“It was a shame we could not do longer-term measurements,” said Boies. “But we were limited partly by the sensors available and partly by the time constraints on the station security. These would have allowed us a more direct comparison to the roadside limits.”
According to Boies, many older trains do not have a diesel particulate filter installed, which could be fitted cheaply to greatly reduce emissions. The issue is also likely to become less pressing as the Great Western Main Line, one of the major lines feeding into Paddington station, is electrified.
“Obviously, replacing these diesel trains with electric trains will also remove the emissions,” said Boies. “The majority of the locomotives in use at Paddington were ‘grandfathered’ (made exempt from the regulations for modern diesel locomotives). Newer diesel locomotives also have much lower emissions.”
Patrick Hallgate, Network Rail’s managing director for the Western route, said: “Our Great Western Electrification Programme will bring Brunel’s railway into the 21st century, by electrifying the main line that runs from London Paddington to Swansea in preparation for the arrival of a new fleet of electric trains. “
These trains will not only provide passengers with faster journeys, more seats and a more comfortable travelling experience, but they are also quieter and greener, significantly reducing noise and air pollution for passengers and our thousands of line-side neighbours.”