Clean train seats matter

31 January 2020


The latest rail passenger survey comes out, punctuality and pricing remain an issue, another rail franchise goes back into government control, and clean train seats matter more than ever.

News and opinion surrounding the UK railway industry is coming thick and fast of late. If it’s not the state of northern England connections, Crossrail delays, the lack of trains at peak times or the cost of HS2, it’s probably ticket prices.

Everyone seems to have an opinion. That's fine, but the bottom line is that operators and passengers just want services to flow and for carriages to be clean, comfortable and accessible. And why shouldn’t they have an opinion on the quality and condition of the facilities they pay for?  

TBM carries on regardless. We have plenty of opinions, but our focus is to continue making a difference as the leading rail passenger comfort specialists.

One of our services is keeping trains seat covers clean for operators. We’ve done it for over ten years. We’re good at it. Turnaround times are quick, we do a professional job and it makes a real difference to the passenger experience.

Deep clean for seat covers

How you clean train seat covers makes a difference. The high volumes of traffic (bums on seats) means that covers take a real bashing. Dirt, grime, bacteria, fluids and mucky feet. Those covers have a tough time!  

Everyone likes to get things done quickly and save money, but that can mean cutting corners. Some maintenance teams steam-clean seats in situ, without removing covers. This can mean blasting the seat material to around 100 degrees centigrade.

While this might get the surface of the fabric clean, what goes unseen just builds up problems for the future. Dirt and germs are pushed deep into the seat cushion. The core seat can be left damp. Crucially, it can break down the fire protection barrier.

What this triggers is an early life failure of the seat foams and fabric. It will cost operators more in the long run when they have to replace entire seats sooner than planned.

We DO NOT do this. TBM checks seat covers, brushes off surface muck, carefully air-jets loose particles out and then put them through professional dry-clean machines.

Where necessary, we can also assess foams, barriers and frames to keep seating stock performing as it should.  

Clean seats make a difference

What we do is reflected in franchise operators’ scores in the National Rail Passenger Survey. The people who use services see a real difference, clean and hygienic seats that they want to sit on.  

Occasionally, we are taken aback by the fabulous comments left on social media by passengers and members of the railway community. Take this one, when we posted on LinkedIn about having seat covers cleaned and ready for despatch back to a fleet operator’s depot:

“It's interesting watching your posts on here - completely un-sung heroes of the industry in my view. Things like this wouldn't even be thought of by most passengers when they put their feet on the seats, or take their bag off a filthy wet floor and put that on the seat - but they will be the first to complain when their clothes get dirty because of - guess what – ‘a filthy train seat’.

“Yet in the background, your teams are doing the work to make train interiors look credible and pleasant for people to ride in, and making sure that the things like working toilets on trains (which people expect and take for granted) are actually there. I take my hat off to you all, genuinely.”

Cheers to Geoff Brison (Director, GSB-Nederland B.V. and Operations manager new trains, Greater Anglia) for his feedback.

We offer scheduled seat cover cleaning and maintenance to fleets across the entire UK rail network. Get in touch to discuss options. Call 0844 800 8577 or email [email protected]

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