TFL Trial UV Technology to Curb Spread of Coronavirus on Public Transport

Posted by Edward Jonkler on August 11, 2020

Now that shops, pubs, restaurants and more offices are opening up to the public again, TFL have taken serious steps to curb the spread of coronavirus, prevent future outbreaks and to ensure the safety of passengers and encourage more users onto public transport across the city. 

In order to ensure passenger and staff safety, face coverings have been mandatory on all public transport for over a month, with TFL reporting 90 per cent compliance from customers. 

In addition, 1,000 hand sanitising points have been installed across the TFL network, alongside new signage, posters and platform stickers to remind public of safety measures, such as two-metre distancing and face coverings. 

Some stations are also using one-way systems and special queuing arrangements to manage crowds during peak travel times. TFL staff are also already on more frequent cleaning routines and all buses, tubes and trains are cleaned daily with ‘hospital grade disinfectant’.

However, in addition to these basic measures TFL are taking their cleaning efforts one step further and are currently trialling UV light technology as a cleaning method in certain stations. 

Machines beaming UV light rays onto escalator handrails have been installed at various points across the network. 

Numerous reports have suggested that COVID-19 thrives less well in hot climates and when exposed to sun rays, and scientists have attributed this to the fact that UV radiation damages the genetic material of viruses and their ability to replicate. Viruses like COVID-19 are particularly susceptible as they have thin cell membranes which can be easily penetrated.

The UV device is connected to the escalator handrail and uses its motion to power a bulb that breaks down surface contamination and subsequently sanitises the handrail. 

Hand rails are an obvious COVID-19 spreading ground if not cleaned thoroughly, with thousands of hands daily touching the rails and potentially leaving virus particles for the next commuter to pick up.

If the trial proves successful, TFL have stated that UV light technology could be installed ‘more widely’ as a cleaning method throughout the Underground. 

Across the network, TFL have also recently announced plans to trial thermal imaging cameras on buses to help spot COVID-19 symptoms. Bus drivers in the UK have been among the most at risk category of coronavirus victims, with 26.4 deaths per 100,000 drivers.

The cameras will be able to detect small changes in passenger and staff temperatures from a distance using infrared technology, and will be used to check if a passenger or staff member has an unusually high temperature; a key symptom of coronavirus. 

If these measures taken by TFL are successful we could be seeing this technology used in other sectors in order to make public places safer and encourage more people back into the public life again. 

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