A major scientific study has been launched to understand the risks of COVID-19 transmission on buses and trains – and to identify the best measures to control it.

Led by the University of Leeds and with support from the Department for Transport and several transport organisations, the investigation will involve taking air and surface samples on parts of the transport network to measure background levels of the coronavirus.   

The researchers will develop detailed simulations of the way the virus could potentially spread through airflow, from touching contaminated surfaces and from being close to someone infected with the virus.

The study will create models that will quantify the level of risk faced by passengers and transport staff – and that will help Government and transport operators decide if additional mitigation measures are needed, particularly when passenger numbers begin to return to the levels seen prior to the pandemic.   

Known as Project TRACK (Transport Risk Assessment for COVID Knowledge), the study will conduct fieldwork on buses and trains in Leeds, Newcastle, including the light-rail system in Tyne and Wear and the above-ground rail network in London.  It does not include the capital’s bus and tube network which may be subject to a separate investigation.

Professor Phil Blythe, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for Transport, said: “The transport industry has been doing a brilliant job keeping public transport COVID-secure for its workers and passengers throughout the pandemic. 

“We need to deepen our understanding of COVID transmission on public transport and keep applying the latest science to our work across the network to reduce transmission – studies like this one will help do just that.

“Evidence gained from TRACK will help inform policy decisions and the development of effective and well-informed control strategies. This scientific study, involving some of the country’s leading experts, will be useful not just for transport, but also to other sectors in the fight against COVID-19.”



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