Although most people are aware of the terrible legacy caused by asbestos in industries and trades such as shipbuilding, construction, carpentry, plumbing and insulation – a much less well understood asbestos hazard is the one that was present in the nation's rail industry and, specifically, the London Underground tube train network.
Any building or piece of infrastructure built before 1999 could contain asbestos and parts of the London Underground are no different, with many workers commenting that asbestos is present throughout its network of tunnels. "The east end of the Central line is in a bad way. The asbestos is above and beyond anywhere else on the whole of the Underground system,'" said one worker in 2013.
The dates of construction certainly tally: the London Underground was built in 1863 and many lines – including the Northern Line, the Victoria Line, and the Jubilee Line – were constructed between 1924 and 1979.
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Asbestos prevents introduction of dust removal train
In 2014 it was reported that the London Underground had to delay the introduction of a specially designed Tunnel Cleaning Train to remove dust. Reports obtained by Clean Air London (CAL) indicated that the delay was because of the need to ensure that all asbestos material was removed from the network in advance.
The Tunnel Cleaning Train had been due to be introduced in 2013 but it was concerns over asbestos that meant passengers would have to wait before they could enjoy breathing air cleansed of toxic metal dust.
The need to remove asbestos dust was only revealed following a Freedom of Information request by CAL; the same request revealed that the cost of removing asbestos could reach as much as £5 million.
Transport for London confirmed that concerns over asbestos and the potential for harm to passengers and workers were the primary reason for the delay in introducing the Tunnel Cleaning Train.
Over the past decades Transport for London has developed a practice of itemising the location of asbestos but removing it from site only when there is clear evidence of risk.
However, TfL had to change its policy, saying that the Tunnel Cleaning Train would be "inoperable across 98% of the London Underground network" unless it removed asbestos.
"A decision regarding the future of the Tunnel Cleaning Train project will be made once the cost and timescales associated with this ACM mitigation project are known. The first phase of the work to price the mitigation of ACMs is underway now," said TfL.
Compensation for asbestos illness
Whether you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness or have a close family member who has suffered as a result of mesothelioma, asbestosis or asbestos lung cancer, speak to our specialist asbestos claim solicitors. London is the home of our offices, but we serve clients from across the country.
For further information, call our team on 0800 508 8747, alternatively you can fill out an online enquiry form and we will contact you to discuss the matter further.
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