Two rounds of testing at four of the UK’s largest railway stations provided no traces of the Covid-19 virus, following analysis by university academics.
The samples were taken from places likely to be regularly touched by passengers at London Euston, Birmingham New Street, Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Piccadilly stations in January and June 2021.
Between the two samples being taken, passenger numbers across the four stations rose by 287%.
Among the surfaces tested were escalator handrails, ticket machines and benches, as well as hour-long air samples being collected on station concourses.
Several similar tests were repeated on a number of intercity train routes.
All of the lab tests carried out by Imperial College London displayed no Covid-19 contamination of any surface tested, or any evidence of airborne particles of the virus in the station or on trains.
The independent report, commissioned by Network Rail, concluded that enhanced cleaning methods across the rail industry and widespread wearing of face coverings by passengers played a key role in the negative results.
Rob Mole, Senior Programme Manager for Network Rail’s Covid-19 response, said: “Station cleaning teams and train staff have made it their mission to keep passengers safe during the pandemic and this is proof their dedicated approach works.
“We want all passengers to travel in confidence on the railway network and we will keep doing our part by rigorously cleaning trains and stations. We ask passengers to do their bit too by wearing face coverings while travelling out of respect for others so we can all stop the spread of Covid-19.”
David Green, Senior Research Fellow at Imperial College London, added: “In the same way that a swab is used to take a Covid-19 test in the nose and throat and sent to the lab, we use a filter to collect any virus particles in the air and swabs to collect viruses on surfaces.
“This approach provides a way of quantifying the amount of virus circulating in these public environments and the effect of mitigation strategies like cleaning and wearing face coverings. This is part of a wider programme of work with the public transport sector to understand where this virus is most prevalent so that we can return to pre-pandemic activities as safely as possible.”
Even as restrictions ease and passengers begin to return to the railway, enhanced cleaning procedures are set to remain in place, with hand sanitiser and face masks available at stations to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Passengers who are able to wear a face covering are expected to continue to do so on trains, with a number of other preventative measures expected to continue too.