Proactive Maintenance for Railway Operators

17 March 2017

Tracks, signals and locomotives all enjoy regular and essential maintenance. Now, some train operating companies (TOCs) are realising the benefits of scheduling other cleaning routines, repairs and overhauls.

A proactive approach to seat cleaning, toilet overhauls and interior panel refurbishment achieves higher levels of rail passenger satisfaction.

Historically, Vehicle Maintenance Instructions (VMIs) have tended to apply to the mechanical and electrical aspects of train maintenance. That’s to be expected, as passenger safety is vital. On a daily, weekly, monthly or mileage basis, locomotive and carriage parts are assessed and serviced. From brakes and wheel profiling, to air hoses and door mechanisms. The list is extensive, but essential.


Keeping toilets running

TBM Rail is delighted that one of its partners has now added toilet systems and tanks to its 50-day VMI. This proactive approach is sure to pay dividends in the long term. This preventative maintenance will ensure that the passenger facilities are in excellent working order, but crucially the storage tanks and pipes will not have time to accumulate hazardous build-ups that can affect hygiene and tank functionality.

Across recent decades such focus on passenger toilet facilities was not a priority. The complex parts were often allowed to deteriorate and eventually fail before action was taken. More importantly, access to the toilets was often limited. Passengers were short-changed.

The cycle was sometimes every five years! When the systems and tanks were returned to facilities like TBM Rail for overhaul, the process was lengthy and costly. Parts had failed and seized up, and the overhaul to return the mechanisms to full working order took longer than usual. It was another unit out of service, not offering rail passengers the comfort they deserve.


The dilemma for many operators is getting the financial balance right. Increasing the service frequency adds expense, but many have now realised that those fees are nothing compared to the considerable replacement costs of failed machinery, the poor scores returned by passengers on the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS), and of course the subsequent negative press.

Seating and carriage panels

VMIs can apply to other areas of passenger comfort. TBM Rail is mid-way through a comprehensive seat refurbishment programme in conjunction with a major UK train operator. It’s a work package that suits everyone. Complete seat sets are shipped to TBM Rail’s base in Crewe, so that covers, foams, fire retardant barriers and mechanisms can be completely serviced. The turnaround is quick, but as the volume of seats being processed is more than 2000 units in total, a float of parts is maintained so that the client receives useable stock much quicker. That means more carriages in service when demand is increasingly high.


Ensuring that passenger facilities are available sooner is a priority. TBM Rail can run accounts with Train Operating Companies such that, for example, batches of seat covers are held at the TBM Rail depot. This means that fresh covers can go out to rail depots immediately while dirty and damaged items are processed.

Keeping train carriages looking fresh and clean is increasingly important. Even scuffed wall and door panels are unsightly and affect the overall travelling experience. TBM Rail now offers swap-out services, and can also help operators plan their refurbishment programmes where powder coatings need to be replaced.

The ultimate solution for panels and grab poles is the durable product called Nylon R-AG, something that TBM Rail is proud to offer the transport industry. It is already in use across much of the London Underground. The warm-to-touch coating is up to fourteen times more resistant to abrasion and damage. It lasts years and can help to minimise replacement costs.


If you’d like to discuss your Vehicle Maintenance Instruction for toilets, seats or powder-coated surfaces, call us now on 0844-8008577.

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