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Peak emissions at London Paddington rail station worse than road-side equivalents

Peak-time emissions from diesel trains at London’s Paddington Station exceed the European recommendations for outdoor air quality, and are higher than nearby roadsides on the majority of days, according to a new study published as an open access paper in the IOP journal Environmental Research Letters.

Air quality has been linked to a variety of health effects, and as such, guidelines in place in Europe to control outdoor air quality have driven reduced emissions from road vehicles. Paddington Station—a semi-enclosed railway station in London—is like all UK rail stations, not required to comply with air quality standards.

We looked at several measures of air quality, and we’ve shown that there are a number of times where the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations exceed the EU hourly mean limits for outdoor air quality.

—Adam Boies, lead author

Measurements were made at five locations around Paddington Station, covering two platforms, the main cooking area, a main exit and the roadside. Although the measurements were constrained to 8 hr readings, they showed elevated measurements of particulate matter, NO2, and sulfur dioxide (SO2) compared to the roadside in Marylebone and North Kensington.

The electrification of the Great Western Main Line, one of the major lines feeding into Paddington station, will improve matters significantly.

Boies is now studying emissions from methane-burning engines. Whilst methane-burning is cleaner that other fossil fuels, any methane not burnt and released in the emissions from the engine has a much greater warming effect than oil-based fuel.


  • Uven Chong, Jacob J Swanson, and Adam M Boies (2015) “Air quality evaluation of London Paddington train station” Environmental Research Letters, Volume 10, Number 9 doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/10/9/094012


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