Tests show no traces of Covid-19 at four major railway stations: Euston station face covering signage stock shot

Monday 2 Aug 2021

Tests show no traces of Covid-19 at four major railway stations

Region & Route:
North West & Central

Passengers can travel in confidence after university academics found no traces of the Covid-19 virus during two rounds of testing at four of the country’s largest railway stations.

Places passengers touch regularly like escalator handrails, ticket machines, and benches were swabbed, and hour-long air samples taken on station concourses at London Euston, Birmingham New Street, Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Piccadilly stations in January and June*.

The same tests were repeated on several inter-city train routes**.

Between the testing dates passenger numbers across all four stations rose by 287%***.

All lab tests by Imperial College London showed no Covid-19 contamination of any surface tested or airborne particles of the virus in station or on trains.

The conclusions from the independent report commissioned by Network Rail say enhanced cleaning methods across the rail industry and widespread wearing of face coverings by passengers are key reasons for the negative results.

Rob Mole, senior programme manager for Network Rail’s COVID 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, said: “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.

Natasha Grice, executive director of customer experience, said: “We really welcome these findings, which demonstrate that customers can travel with confidence. We have a well-established enhanced cleaning regime with a focus on touch points, including door buttons, tables, handrails, armrests and toilets, as well as using long-lasting sanitiser onboard our trains. We’re delighted to have this clear evidence that backs up our approach.”

Enhanced cleaning procedures will remain in place with hand sanitiser and face masks available at stations to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Passengers who can are expected to wear a face covering in stations and on trains so everyone can travel in confidence.

People should continue to plan ahead, sanitise their hands regularly and open a train window while travelling if possible.

To find out more about what Network Rail is doing to stop the spread of Covid-19 visit: https://www.networkrail.co.uk/coronavirus/.

Interviews are available on request - please email media manager Chris Halpin on chris.halpin@networkrail.co.uk or call 07740 782954.

Notes to Editors

*Full reports from the testing in PDF format are available on request

**Full list of train services tested


12 January 2021 - Avanti West Coast service from London Euston to Birmingham

14 January 2021 - Northern service from Manchester Piccadilly to Liverpool Lime Street


7 June 2021 - Avanti West Coast service from London Euston to Birmingham

8 June 2021 - CrossCountry service from Birmingham New Street to Manchester

10 June 2021 - Avanti West Coast service from Liverpool Lime Street to London Euston


***Passenger numbers through each station on testing days

Liverpool Lime Street


Testing date

Daily passengers

% Increase Jan to Jun








Manchester Piccadilly


Testing date

Daily passengers

% Increase Jan to Jun








Birmingham New Street


Testing date

Daily passengers

% Increase Jan to Jun








London Euston


Testing date

Daily passengers

% Increase Jan to Jun








All four stations


Jan Total



Jun Total



% increase




The testing explained

Surface testing

Each swab covered an area of approximately 25cm2 which was then placed in a vial containing virus transportation medium.

Air samples

Filter samples were taken using a high-volume sampler for 1 hour on the station concourse, or the duration of the train journey. After sampling the filters were placed in a vial containing virus transportation medium.

Samples were kept cold following sampling and transported via refrigerated transport to the laboratory overnight.

Contact information

Passengers / community members
Network Rail national helpline
03457 11 41 41

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Network Rail press office - North West & Central Region
0330 854 0100

About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

Follow us on Twitter: @networkrail
Visit our online newsroom: www.networkrailmediacentre.co.uk