Smart Transport

Manchester Metrolink airflow helps limit Covid-19 risk, study finds

An in-built ventilation system on Manchester's Metrolink’s trams circulates fresh air, helping to limit the risk of aerosol transmission of viruses including Covid-19, an independent study has found.

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) commissioned global built environment and consultancy firm Arup to undertake Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) modelling of its M5000 trams.

The modelling assessed the air flow within the vehicle, with particular focus on how this relates to the potential for aerosol transmission of viruses, by looking at how exhaled breath spreads through the vehicle, and how that is affected by factors like opening windows, mask wearing and activity levels. 

Metrolink’s trams are ventilated through fans on the roof and air diffusers in the ceiling, with air exhausted from under-seat vent holes, says TfGM. 

Metrolink has brought 'major benefits' to communities, clean air and congestion, according to a report by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM). 

TfGM’s head of Metrolink, Danny Vaughan, said: “The safety of all those using Metrolink has, and will continue to be, our number one priority and the more we understand about how the virus is transmitted, the more effective our efforts in combating it can be.

“Studies like this and the recent study by Imperial College London on the effectiveness of cleaning regimes – like we have on Metrolink – demonstrate how we and our partners across the transport industry are taking an evidence-based approach to ensuring safer travel.”

Arup’s modelling also showed that the risk of transmission is reduced when face coverings are worn, while heavy-breathing – such as after a short run and/or loud talking and shouting – increase the risk of aerosol transmission. It found that the risk of infection was reduced by around two-thirds by passengers wearing face coverings.

The modelling has been shared with the Department for Transport (DfT) and light rail industry body, UK Tram.

Since the outbreak of the virus, TfGM said it has introduced measures to ensure those needing to travel on Metrolink can do so safely, including:

  • An enhanced cleaning programme using anti-viral products, which sees touch points on trams and stops cleaned every two hours
  • Adapting service patterns in line with demand and using all available trams to help with social distancing
  • Introduction of dedicated ‘trambassadors’ to promote safe travel
  • Installed hand sanitiser dispensers at the busiest stops
  • Installed signage on stops and trams to encourage social distancing
  • Worked as part of the TravelSafe Partnership to hold more than 50 proactive ‘days of action’ to promote safe travel and challenge those flouting the rules

Last year, TfGM announced it would increase its Metrolink tram capacity by 15% to help provide more space for social distancing. 

The findings come as England moves into Step 2 of the Government’s four step roadmap for easing the restrictions, enabling the re-opening of non-essential shops, gyms, hairdressers, and outdoor attractions, along with some restricted outdoor hospitality.

Vaughan said: “With Step 2 of government’s road map now in place I hope these studies, coupled with robust cleaning and other additional measures we’ve introduced, help make people feel safe and confident as they return to our network.”

Watch now: Connecting Policy To Solutions Virtual Conference 2021

Smart Transport Conference returned on June 8th & 9th, to facilitate pivotal discussions on the future of transport. 

The UK’s most senior public and private sector transport leaders discussed the impact of Covid-19, achieving the Government’s decarbonisation ambitions, the need for more efficient living and better health, and much more.

Keynote speakers included: 

Kwasi Kwarteng, secretary of state at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), who spoke on BEIS's approach to decarbonising transport, particularly the electrification of the vehicle industry

Keith Williams, co-author of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, who spoke on rail’s role in integrated transport, decarbonisation and innovation.

Rachel Maclean, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Transport, who discussed the future of transport and its pivotal role in a ‘green recovery’ from the pandemic.


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