Train operators can keep seats hygienic

15 March 2018

Britain’s railways are busy, expanding and serving an ever-demanding public. Keeping the train carriage seating clean is more important than ever. It’s a challenge, but TBM offers solutions… literally!

Many of us struggle keeping the house clean, especially when kids and pets regularly rampage through the rooms with mucky feet. In the winter months it’s worse. Clothes are often wet and dirty, and all manner of debris gets blown through the door when it’s windy.

You can magnify that many times when we talk about public transport, in particular the nation’s railway vehicles. Statistics provided by the Office of Rail & Road organisation reveal that around 1.75 billion passenger journeys are made each year in the UK. That’s a lot of bodies, feet, and bums on seats. That means a lot of work for Train Operating Companies (TOCs).  


Are train seats cleaned regularly?

A recent article published in the Metro was revealing. It focused on the London Underground, and broke its research down to the various lines that criss-cross the capital city. The results were mixed. Although most of the routes underwent some cleaning most days/weeks, on seven lines (District, Jubilee, Northern, Circle, Piccadilly, Metropolitan and Hammersmith and City) the seats are never shampooed.

To be balanced, the Metro-led report, based on a Freedom of Information request to Transport for London, also highlighted the work that was carried out. Seats were hoovered and replaced if damaged. Many brushed covers to remove surface dirt and keep up appearances. After all, most of us make decisions based on first impressions.

Is this replicated across the network of mainline operators?

TBM Rail works with a number of TOCs, receiving seats and seat covers on a regular basis. Many build the cleaning of passenger seating into their maintenance schedules.

The volume of travelling passengers on UK trains means it can be an ongoing challenge, even for operators that DO deep-clean their seating. It must feel like painting the Forth Bridge!


What can be done to clean train seats?

There’s so much more that can be done to keep seat fabric as clean and hygienic as possible. When consignments of covers arrive at TBM Rail’s depot in Crewe, there are a number of operations that take place.

First, much like some of the London Underground routes, we inspect covers and check for surface dirt that can be removed. This can be anything from mud (yes, people stand on seats and rest their feet where other passengers sit), take-away debris, chewing gum and soggy shredded tissues. We’ve found it all.

Then the vacuum cleaner comes out. An industrial strength one. That removes loose particles on the seat covers and much of the dusty powder that lurks inside the covers. Because we have removed the covers, we get at dirt that might otherwise be forced deep into the fabric and/or the foam beneath. We also use air jets to really blast away any loose muck!


Now it’s time to kill off the germs. We put our clients’ seat covers through a thorough cleaning process using rail-approved detergents. They get a much-needed “shampoo” to refresh the material, blitz bacteria and leave the covers looking great. They also smell pretty good, too.  

The whole process takes a few hours but it’s worth it. Seat covers that are processed by us look much better and keep customers smiling longer. That’s often reflected in the National Rail Passenger Survey scores, compiled by Transport Focus.

TBM Rail is committed to working with train companies across the country to keep improving passengers standards.

There’s a short video that highlights some of the TBM Rail seat cleaning process HERE.

If you’d like more information about what TBM Rail can offer your fleet please call 0844 800 8577 or email [email protected] for further details.

News & events

  • Cost-effective passenger comfortMORE
  • Clean, efficient train fuel tanks MORE
  • Doors sensors that last, and last… MORE
  • Testing fabric protection solutionsMORE