New UV light devices that kill viruses are now being installed at several London Underground stations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. More than 200 of these sanitising devices will be placed on the escalators at some of the busiest Tube stations, including King’s Cross St Pancras, London Bridge, Victoria and Bond Street, accounting for nearly a quarter of the escalators on the transport network.

Escalators at Canary Wharf Underground Station. ©Neil Setchfield/Lonely Planet

The devices sanitise the surface of the escalator’s handrail, and their installation comes after a six-week trial at one of the Tube stations at Heathrow Airport. It was found that the system successfully killed viruses as well as improved the general cleanliness of the handrails by at least 50%. However, it’s not yet known whether the novel coronavirus can be eliminated in this way because it’s still too new to have undergone clinical trials with UV light, but previous coronavirus strains have been killed using these methods. Cleverly, the movement of the escalator powers the UV bulbs.

Heathrow Terminal 5 sign
The sanitising lights were tested at Heathrow Airport ©sharrocks/Getty Images

‘We already have a rigorous cleaning regime across all of our stations but are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that the transport network is as clean as it possibly can be’, Esther Sharples, director of Asset Operations at London Underground, said in a statement. ‘Customer injuries on escalators account for around half of all injuries on the Tube network and, during the pandemic, we have found that some customers are avoiding holding the handrails. We hope that the installation of these new devices, along with the provision of Dettol hand sanitiser across the network, will rebuild customer confidence.’

No evidence of the coronavirus has been found on the Underground to date, and Transport for London says that it conducts regular tests, including samples of the air and surfaces. Hospital-grade cleaning solutions are used, and more than 1000 hand sanitiser stations have been added across the network.

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