The UK Government recommends that the minimum distance between those not in the same household is 2m, and this clearly results in a significant shift in the ways that we all, as passengers, and as station staff and train operators both use and work in the entire rail and mass transit systems.
Recent research from Harvard postulates that a “small increase in long-term exposure to PM2.5 (atmospheric particulate matter) leads to a large increase in COVID-19 death rate, with the magnitude of increase 20 times that observed for PM2.5 and all-cause mortality” (2) .
Urban mass transit systems such as the Underground using rail and steel wheels assist in significantly reducing the amounts of PM2.5 emitted though ICE exhaust products and tyre wear (3).
Transit systems typically use high quality, long-life and through finish architectural materials, with expected operational lifespans of 25+ years. Some legacy materials such as bronze have inherent Oligodynamic properties, and examples of handrails originally installed in the early 1930s still exist in stations. These kinds of materials and others such as photocatalytic TiO2 coatings can all assist in reducing the rate of transmission, not just of COVID-19 but of future coronavirus epidemics. We can also look to combine traditional and modern finishes to mitigate transmission between the public as much as is reasonably practicable.
Digital tools based on BIM enable us to test and analyse how people occupy and use public spaces. These ‘Digital Twins’ and passenger flow modelling software allow us to test through simulation, how new ways of inhabiting spaces will affect the operation of mass transit systems in the short, medium and long terms.
As we begin to repopulate our public and working spaces we must be able to safely operate our mass transit systems in order to be able to re-inhabit our cities, get people back to work, bring our economies back online and engage in cultural and social activities.