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Julia Poliscanova, air pollution officer at T&E, said: “Diesel exhaust causes cancer and breathing problems but the technology to clean up the emissions is available and routinely fitted to modern trucks. It’s a disgrace the European Parliament is letting rail companies off the hook.”
A report publicised last week revealed that London’s Paddington train station has higher concentrations of pollutants than the Marylebone Road, the most polluted street in the UK. This is because of trains’ diesel exhaust, which affects the air breathed not only by passengers but also train drivers, retail staff, rail workers and shoppers.
Julia Poliscanova concluded: “Diesel trains cannot be green if they are not clean. We urge the European Commission and member states to overturn this ill-considered vote. We cannot choose where we breathe – citizens travelling by rail and living alongside lines deserve clean air as much as those walking along the roadside.”
On the positive side, MEPs voted in favour of a proposal to retrofit all existing off-road diesel engines in urban areas, which fail to comply with EU air quality standards. This will encourage governments to seek ways to limit pollution from diesel machines already in use.
The proposed Non-Road Mobile Machinery (NRMM) regulation is meant to be a response to air pollutants from diesel trains, inland boats, and also the increasing use of stationary construction equipment, much of which is not covered by existing laws. Some existing legislation is thought to be out-dated, extremely complex, or not implemented by member states.
Diesel exhaust is carcinogenic, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), and diesel machines are a major local source of urban air pollution near some railways stations and construction sites. In Europe every year air pollution causes 100 million sick days and more than 400,000 premature deaths.