Air and noise pollution at Severn Beach

Air and noise pollution: Severn Beach line diesel train exhaust pipe

Residents of Severn Beach have recently written to the Minister of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, asking for support in removing intolerable levels of noise and air pollution at Severn Beach station.

Mr & Mrs Calvert, who live close to the station, acknowledge that the approx. 2,500 residents of Severn Beach value and rely on the train service. However, diesel trains idling at the station are impacting on noise levels and air quality in the surrounding area. 

Improved timetable

In December 2021 the service to Severn Beach was upgraded to a more frequent service:

  • Weekdays – 22 services compared to previous 11
  • Saturday – 21 services compared to previous 9
  • Sunday – 12 Sunday services compared to previous 8.

Weekday services arrive into Severn Beach station between 05.48 and 23.03.  Of the 12 services that arrive between 08.23 and 19.23, 11 of those wait at Severn Beach platform for longer than 35 minutes before returning to Bristol

Saturday services arrive into Severn Beach station between 05.50 and 22.53.  Of the 14 services that arrive between 08.23 and 21.23, 13 of those wait at Severn Beach platform for longer than 35 minutes.


Timetabling services with these longer waits at Severn Beach terminal station has improved the resilience of the timetable and increased reliability. But the engines of some trains are left running during the layover.  Diesel trains emit carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides.  Thier engines are also noisy, which is not only impacts quality of life but is a recognised health hazard.

Local residents wrote to GWR about fumes and noise from idling trains, even before the timetable upgrade.  GWR replied in February 2021 that:

We have an appendix to the railway rule book which includes a specific section for managing idling of diesel engines and control of noise, under this section we specify that engines must be shut down if standing time exceeds 5 minutes unless the train is due to depart again within 10 minutes, during exceptionally hot or cold weather or if there’s a technical fault that may compromise a departure. I will ask for the drivers to be re-briefed on this requirement and to inform them that there has been a complaint.


Mr & Mrs Calvert have observed that not all engines are being turned off, with train engines idling for over 30 minutes, and some trains revving engines, apparently to increase brake pressure prior to departure. 

As an immediate priority, train crews need to be reminded to only run engines on platforms for the minimum period. 

We need cleaner, greener trains

Network Rail’s Traction Network Decarbonisation Strategy sets out a plan to remove all diesel-only trains by 2040 through the development of new technologies. FoSBR supporter Shabs Hussain recently wrote about low carbon alternatives for the Severn Beach Line which do not require line electrification.  

There are already cleaner, greener traction technologies which would benefit the communities and environment all the way along suburban Bristol rail routes. FoSBR share Mr & Mrs Calvert’s desire that suburban Bristol should be prioritised for an upgrade from 30-year old diesel trains.

Mr & Mrs Calvert’s complete letter to Grant Shapps can be found here 



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