Paris transport authority under criminal investigation for Metro air quality

The Autonomous Parisian Transportation Administration (Régie autonome des transports Parisiens or RATP) are under criminal investigation by the Public Prosecutor’s Office for ‘endangering others and deception in a service leading to a danger to human health’.

This comes two years after Respire, the National association for the improvement of air quality, filed a complaint against RATP for aggravated deception and unintentional injury, following a prolonged campaign highlighting the poor air quality on the Metro system.

people inside trainRespire have commissioned research of their own into air pollution on the Metro. In 2019, they brought in a team from the National Centre for Scientific Research to test air quality in a number of locations and trains around the network. Despite RATP testing air quality themselves, they had never tested for the extremely dangerous sizes smaller than PM2.5.

In the Respire study measurements, almost all particles (99.5%) were found to be smaller than 1 micrometer. On one platform in the station of Gare de Lyon, they measured up to 800 million particles per cubic metre.

The measurements showed differences between different parts of the network as well as between the front, rear and middle of the platform; between more or less deep stations and between corridors and platforms. Even between different trains on the same platform. Respire made this observation to highlight the ineffectiveness of RATP using a single monitoring device in each station. As Respire pointed out, more effective monitoring could have enabled RATP to issue advice such as to not wait for a train near the tunnel entrance. 

Two years later, in 2021, Respire commissioned research that called RATP’s monitoring data into question. The official data was only gathered from three stations – Auber, Châtelet and Franklin-Roosevelt – but it was found that Auber hadn’t reported results for three years and Châtelet collected no data in 2018. The remaining station is well ventilated and accurately reported the low levels of pollution. 

The research found that at Auber – rom which no data had been collected – there were very high levels of air pollution while the sensor at Châtelet was dirty and gave inconsistent results. It was also pointed out that the official figures do not allow for very high bursts of  particulate matter which they found could reach ten times the threshold of an outdoor pollution peak.

Respire concluded that report by saying: ‘We therefore ask [RATP] to quickly set up a serious air pollution measurement system – we are at their disposal to discuss how to achieve this. We also ask the company to put in place a proper information and transparency system.’

Respire filed their complaint two months later, stating; ‘all users of Paris public transport are bound to RATP by a transport service contract. As such, the latter is bound by a general obligation of information, and an obligation of safety of result, which is incumbent on any passenger carrier.’

Now that a criminal inquiry has been opened, Respire are naturally delighted. CEO Tony Renucci said: ‘It is time to lift the code of silence and for RATP to tell users the truth’

The group’s laywer, Julia Cancelier added: ‘We welcome the opening of this investigation, which confirms the seriousness of the complaint filed and the seriousness of the facts it denounces. Entrusted to a specialized service, the investigations will clarify the conditions in which millions of users are daily exposed to harmful air in public transport’.


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