Rolling Stock ventilation: Covid-19

Our ref: HSR/1/1

Head Office Circular: NP/15/22

20th January 2022

To: The Secretary




Dear Colleague,




Your National Executive Committee (NEC) met on 18th January 2022 to discuss a report from its Health and Safety sub-committee relating to correspondence received from RSSB. This following a letter I sent them regarding the importance of good ventilation in halting the spread of Covid-19 – and enquiring what research they were doing into this.


In connection with this the NEC noted and adopted the following report:


We note that on most new fleets of train, windows cannot be opened. Therefore, the only way in which good ventilation can be achieved is through mechanical ventilation.


We also note that some employers Covid-19 risk assessments over emphasize the importance of cleaning of surfaces and handwashing to combat “droplet spread” of Covid19 and fail to emphasise the primary importance of airborne transmission in spreading the virus (the route of transmission which has been known for some time now). This leads to the ‘theatrics of cleaning’ – when companies use contract cleaners to go through trains to clean common touch points – with the cleaners only protection being a surgical mask. These trains are often packed, particularly if TOCs have reduced services and are not running trains of sufficient length to allow for adequate distancing.  This puts both on board staff and passengers at risk. But leaves the TOCs able to say they are providing a safety travelling environment.


With talk of work from home and other restrictions being lifted imminently, RMT’s position will be that the wearing of face coverings for passengers on public transport and in transport facilities, along with social distancing, should continue to be mandatory and backed up by enforcement powers under law.  Where this is not the case the transport companies should maintain it as mandatory as a condition of carriage.


The General Secretary is instructed to write to RSSB for an update on their letter “RSSB research and work in relation to ventilation related to the risk from Covid-19” of 25th October 2021, thanking them for their correspondence and asking them to include in their response, responses to the following:


  • Given the urgency of the need to understand more about how Covid-19 is transmitted, can RSSB let RMT know when in 2022 will TRACK results be published? And in the meantime, are there any interim results that can be shared with RMT?
  • Can RSSB explain why they write in their letter that proven measures of disease control including UV-C and HEPA filters, are ‘not necessarily suitable’ for deployment on rail vehicles. Is this simply because these are ‘dynamic environments’ or are there other reasons? If so RSSB to explain what these are.
  • Are CO2 monitors being used to monitor poor ventilation? and if not, why not? And if this is being measured, are records available to RMT of levels being measured? and if high levels of carbon dioxide are being measured is this information shared with staff and addressed in Covid-19 risk assessments?
  • Regarding the trial running on number of fleets as regards enhanced filtration, will the proposal to move from current standard of 10 microns to 2.5 filtration level be at a sufficient to remove small airborne particles?


If RSSB not able to provide RMT this information – for them to advise who can.


Additionally, the GS to update advice to reps on the importance of good ventilation halting the spread of Covid-19.


Branches and Regional Councils to be advised accordingly.


I am acting in accordance with these instructions and will keep members advised of any developments.


Please bring the contents of this circular to the attention of relevant members.


Yours sincerely




Michael Lynch

General Secretary