The rail industry needs clear direction to tackle issues surrounding air quality and carbon emissions. That was the key conclusion of Richard Cornwell and Jonathan Brown of Ricardo Rail in their presentation to the Golden Spanners conference.

Diesel train in an enclosed space: CrossCountry’s No 170520 at Birmingham New Street on 8 October 2014.

A key distinction must be made between carbon emissions, a global problem, and air quality emissions, which are a local problem related to a variety of pollutants. Air quality issues do not relate solely to internal combustion engines, with some problems coming from electric railways. Lack of knowledge of the distinction leads to fake news and misinformation, which is not a helpful contribution to the wider debate. For rail, air quality is a particular issue because of diesel operation within enclosed spaces such as Birmingham New Street station; on open track the air quality challenge diminishes.

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