Emissions to Air

Taking action to prevent pollution to air, water and land which might occur as a result of our operations.

What are emissions to air?

Emissions to air are discharges of a pollutant from a particular source (e.g a flue-gas stack) or a group of sources (e.g vehicles) into the air. Pollutants are unwanted chemicals or other materials that, at high enough concentrations, endanger the environment and human health.

Emissions to air can also cause offensive odours which are statutory nuisances. Network Rail’s approach to this is covered in the Noise, Nuisance and Disturbance .

Why are emissions to air important to Network Rail?

Network Rail has an obligation to reduce its air emissions, in recognition that pollutants can negatively impact human health and the environment. We value the health of all those working for and on behalf of Network Rail, as well as all members of the public; we therefore take measures to ensure its activities do not have a negative impact on air quality. This is of particular importance in our managed stations where there is the potential for higher than “normal” concentrations of particulates, Nitrogen Dioxide (NOx) and Sulphur Oxide (SOx), to be present which is caused by diesel powered trains. These pollutants have been linked to an increased likelihood of respiratory disease, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and asthma.

Many Network Rail works and maintenance activities also have the potential to cause emissions to air. Some examples of these are: excessive vehicle movements, dust generated from vehicle use/movement, on-site plant/equipment emissions, unplanned spill odours and accumulated waste odours.

What is Network Rail’s approach to emissions to air?

When looking at emissions to air from a work site or maintenance perspective, all sources of combustion emissions and dust emissions should be identified as early as possible, as well as the locations of all the sensitive receptors (e.g lineside neighbours). Plans should be made on how to reduce these before the works start. Some examples of the control measures that we take are:

  • switching off engines when not in use;
  • washing or cleaning vehicles effectively before leaving the site;
  • covering loads entering and leaving the site;
  • planning site layout so that machinery and dust causing activities are located away from sensitive receptors;
  • using water as a dust suppressant where applicable;
  • keeping stockpiles covered where possible;
  • using zero (or ultra-low) sulphur diesel fuel at all sites whenever possible.

Where elimination of the impact is not reasonably practicable, the next step shall be to consider how the impact on sensitive receptors can be reduced (e.g erecting effective dust barriers around the activity).

Furthermore, the use of low carbon vehicles (e.g electric cars) should be considered by all staff and contractors when undertaking activities for Network Rail which require vehicular movements.

For more information on what Network Rail is doing to reduce its carbon emissions, please go to the Energy and Carbon Management section.

Key contacts:

For general enquiries, please email sustainabledevelopment@networkrail.co.uk.

For specific enquiries, please email Clive Jones, Environment Manager.

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