Keeping train toilets operational in hot weather

20 July 2018


Sweltering conditions, timetable changes and increased passenger numbers put a strain on rail and coach services, especially the washroom facilities. Keeping toilets and storage tanks working is essential or passenger comfort.

Train operating companies (TOCs) and coach firms all have to provide clean, hygienic and working toilets for passengers. Commuting can be stressful, and having to complete medium-to-long range journeys without decent toilets can making working days much harder.

The same is true for leisure passengers. Often with children accompanying them, they too need facilities to be readily available and accessible – when they need them.

Throw in the recent hot spell when one or more toilets have become unusable and it can make some journeys unbearable!

Avoid negative feedback!

That’s the last thing any franchise wants. It leads to negative feedback, complaints and – worst case scenario – people finding alternative transport options.

As the UK’s rail network strives to install better tracks, operate faster trains and more connected digital services, the last thing it needs is to forget the basics that everyone has come to depend upon.

However, getting the balance right when it comes to scheduled maintenance, reactive cleaning and repairs is a fine line for any service manager that runs a fleet of buses, coaches or trains.

Unexpected blockages, such as excessive use of paper towels, sanitary products and even nappies can block toilet pipes even when tanks have been serviced.

So, should systems be fully serviced each month, every quarter, six-monthly or once a year? It’s the million dollar question.

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Why do train toilet systems block?

Speak to many passengers and it’s a mystery to them why toilet and washroom facilities are locked down. They often think it’s just the operators savings resources, or that cleaning teams haven’t turned up in time before services leave depots.

That’s not usually the case. For safety and hygiene reasons transport toilets often auto-lock if a blockage threatens to flood a unit. That could cause slip hazards, and the potential smells would not be pleasant.

The most frustrating thing for operators is that even regular cleaning can’t stop an inconsiderate passenger ignoring common sense rules and putting large objects down toilets. You’d be amazed what is found in the pipes and storage tanks!

That’s when you need all aspects of the toilet system working properly, to give them the best chance of dealing with unwanted items thrown down the bowl.

However, where pipes have not been thoroughly cleaned, because of uric acid and limescale build-ups the walls of toilet piping that leads to tanks can get clogged with debris. The diameter of the pipe keeps getting smaller. Only a blast with industry-approved fluids can dislodge some deposits. That’s what we do.

With pipes kept cleaner there is less chance of blockages occurring, so that toilets function properly and waste gets carried through to the storage tanks ready to be professionally emptied back at the operators’ depots.

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What can transport companies do to keep toilets open?

Keeping passenger services running efficiently is all about planning. Ideally, any rolling stock has a maintenance schedule built in from day one. Pristine equipment, clean pipes and fully operational tanks are kept looking good, hygienic and in full working order as soon as the vehicles go into service.

When budgets are already tight, that takes a bold move from financial controllers. However, it ensures that passengers services have the best chance of staying operational for the people who need them – the travelling (and paying) public.

This is exactly what Hitachi and GWR did when the Class 800 fleet hit the tracks last year. TBM sends teams down to Bristol and other sites to keep this fleet’s seating and toilet facilities looking like new. The operator and supplier have both shown a strong desire to be proactive, to give their customers the best possible service. We’re delighted to support that.

We have serviced toilets and tanks for most of the UK rail operators. We also offer a quick (and FREE) assessment service, so that train and coach companies can get a better understanding of the condition of their toilet systems.

We send in our technicians to put cameras down pipes, take measurements and use years of experience to build up a picture and give operators an idea of what is needed to get their washroom facilities up to scratch – and then in working order, every day that the vehicles carry passengers.

TBM completes cleaning, repairs and servicing at client depots across the country, or we can receive dismounted tanks at our Crewe base in Cheshire. We’ll sort them out and return them looking almost new within a few days.

Please call 0844 8008577 to discuss your train toilet tank requirements, or email [email protected]

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