TRACK (Transport Risk Assessment for COVID Knowledge)

Public transport patronage is currently well below the norm, but as restart progresses the number of people using transport systems will increase. This could increase COVID-19 infection due to increased proximity and interaction with infected persons and contaminated surfaces.

TRACK is a multidisciplinary project designed to address knowledge gaps around COVID-19 transmission on public transport. TRACK will develop a novel risk model that can simulate infection risk through three transmission mechanisms (droplet, aerosol, surface contact) within different transport vehicles and operating scenarios.

New data will be collected on public transport in Leeds, Newcastle and London:

  • Air and surface samples will be collected to measure SARS-CoV-2 prevalence together with other human biomarkers as a proxy measure for pathogens.
  • User and staff travel behaviour and demographics will be characterised through surveys and passive data collection to relate public transport use to geographic and population sub-group disease prevalence.
  • The proximity of people and their surface contacts will be quantified through analysis of transport operator CCTV data to enable simulation of micro-behaviour in the transport system.
  • The dispersion of infectious droplets and aerosols with different environmental infection control strategies will be evaluated using physical and computational models.

Data sources will be combined to develop probability distributions for SARS-CoV-2 exposure and simulate transmission risk through a Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA) framework.

Working closely with Department for Transport (DfT) and transport stakeholders, TRACK will provide microbial and user data, targeted guidance and risk planning tools that will directly enable better assessment of infection risks for passengers and staff using surface public transport networks, and help policy teams design effective interventions to mitigate transmission.

TRACK is a collaboration between Leeds University; Cambridge University; Imperial College London; Newcastle University; Public Health England (PHE); Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl); and the Department for Transport (DfT).

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For further information on this project please email DfTChiefScientificAdviser@dft.gov.uk

This programme of work has been granted funding of £1.6 million by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), for an 18-month period. TRACK officially started on 22 September, and will deliver outputs at regular intervals throughout the project lifespan.