We've all experienced that noisome, bitter stench while waiting on a mainline train station. After moving away from the chain coffee stall, it tends to go away. But then there's that other source of unwanted emanations: wee and poo dumped on the train track.
The problem is old trains. Since 1996, all new rolling stock has been fitted with tanks to contain passengers' slops. But older cars still dump their loads directly onto the tracks, and often they do it in stations. According to the BBC, tracks at King's Cross, Liverpool Street and Paddington all experience the charms of raw sewage, debouched from outdated trains. The BBC's Tom Edwards, who's keeping a close eye on the story, reckons the problem is particularly acute at London's most-recently upgraded station:
East Coast denies that its cleaning staff are flushing toilets at King's Cross and says that passengers are urged not to do so either. Yet the problem persists.
It's not just a nose-pincher for those waiting on platforms. The RMT union is now agitating about the problem, describing the effluent as a health risk for its track workers. Union leader Bob Crow told the BBC: "I think it's absolutely scandalous. No other part of society would allow for raw sewage to be thrown over the track where our members have to work".
The union is calling on train companies to invest in containment systems, while both the government and the Rail Delivery Group reassure us that they are investing in new rolling stock. Complete fleet replacement will take years, however. Until then, please mind the crap, and don't flush in stations.
What's the scale of this problem? Have you encountered the telltale whiff of raw effluent on one of London's mainline stations? Dish the dirt (not literally) below.