Tests show no traces of Covid-19 at Liverpool Lime Street station: Liverpool Lime Street cleaning handrails stock shot

Monday 2 Aug 2021

Tests show no traces of Covid-19 at Liverpool Lime Street station

Region & Route:
North West & Central
| North West & Central: North West

Passengers can travel in confidence after university academics found no traces of the Covid-19 virus during two rounds of testing at Liverpool Lime Street station.

Places passengers touch regularly like escalator handrails, ticket machines, and benches were swabbed, and hour-long air samples were taken on the station concourse in January and June*.

The same tests were repeated on two inter-city train routes run by Avanti West Coast and Northern**.

Between the testing dates station passenger numbers increased by 242%.

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.”

Network Rail figures show passengers are steadily returning to Liverpool Lime Street station.

This June 865,000 journeys were made compared to 253,000 in January – a rise of 242%.

Comparing June 2021 to pre-pandemic June 2019 - 70% of passengers have come back to Liverpool Lime Street.

Enhanced cleaning procedures will remain in place with hand sanitiser and face coverings available on the station concourse 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.

Rail travellers 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

*Liverpool Lime Street station sampling

First round station testing - 14 January 2021

Seven surfaces were swabbed including a ticket machine, concourse seating bench, touch screen information board, lift call button, escalator handrail, a vending machine, and a cash machine.

An hour-long air (aerosol) sample was taken on the concourse.

There were 8,319 passenger journeys made through Liverpool Lime Street that day.

Second round station testing - 10 June 2021

Five surfaces were swabbed including a concourse bench, two ticket machines, escalator handrail, and a touchscreen information screen.

An hour-long air (aerosol) sample was taken on the station concourse.

There were 29,181 passenger journeys made through Liverpool Lime Street that day.

This represents a 250% increase in passengers from the first test to the second.

**Train sampling

First round train testing – 14 January 2021

A Northern service from Manchester Piccadilly to Liverpool Lime Street was tested on 14 January 2021.

Seven swabs were taken on a seat handle, two carriage door exit buttons, exit handrail, carriage door handle, toilet door button, and handrail.

An hour-long air sample also took place in a carriage.

Second round train testing – 10 June 2021

An Avanti West Coast service from Liverpool Lime Street to London Euston was tested on 10 June 2021.

Five swabs were taken on a carriage door exit button, seat handle, toilet door button, a table and carriage door exit button.

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

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