Even before the pandemic happened, no one really liked touching the hand and grab poles on public transport. Thinking about the thousands of hands that touch these poles each week is pretty stomach churning! And now more than ever as we are fine-tuned to exceptional levels of cleanliness, as we emerge from a global pandemic. Everyone’s standards have changed.

In the rail industry, we need our passengers to come back. Which means two things:

1. More hygienic carriages

2. Pleasant & reliable travelling environments

Cracked coatings = cracked confidence

Historically, hand and grab poles have been coated with a polyester powder coating. However, this coating easily chips and cracks. Is this a big deal? Yes! Why? Because passengers want to travel on transport that offers a pleasant environment and value for money.

Travel by train is expensive and for the daily commuters it is essential that nothing puts them off. Unsightly chips, scratches and graffiti spoil the surroundings and damage the appeal of travelling by train.

Something seemingly minor can gnaw away subconsciously at a passenger’s confidence in the quality of rail as a transport option. To the passenger everything is connected – the interior aesthetics, hygiene, cleanliness, reliability etc.

A little wear and tear soon becomes a big problem

With the large volume of passengers who use trains, a little chip becomes a slippery slope to requiring the complete pole to be stripped and recoated, which means vehicles have to be taken out of service. This puts pressure on the rest of the fleet and pressure on the reliability of operating trains.

Powder polyester coatings – inferior hygiene

Because of what we’ve all lived through over the last 12 months, everyone is much more savvy about how infections spread, as well as hygiene and cleanliness in general.

Post lockdown, potential passengers will definitely be reassessing their options for travel based on cleanliness as a major factor. Throughout the pandemic, the public were advised to avoid public transport due to the risks of airborne or surface transmission, so it has almost become ingrained in the population to steer clear. Therefore, operators have to work harder to attract Joe Bloggs back to rail, and make it a viable option in the new normal.

As well as passengers just being more savvy about infection control, they actually have good reason to be. A recent study by Zhao et al (2020) shows trains being a much greater source of disease transmission than other modes of transport, so operators need to be proactive in making their trains more hygienic spaces.

Hygiene levels had started to be looked into a few years ago, pre pandemic. In February 2015, bacteriologists from Cornell University spent more than a year swabbing New York City’s Subway trains and stations for bacteria. They found hundreds of different microbial species living throughout NYC’s transit system, on the poles, seats and turnstiles that passengers have contact with every day, but half of them were completely unknown to science. Anthrax and the bubonic plague were among those bacteria which were recognised.

Traditional powder polyester coatings on grab poles are simply just that – to coat the pole. The coatings were formulated at a time when hygiene didn’t have such prominence in passenger’s minds. But there is an alternative.

At TBM Rail we supply Omnikote’s Nylon R-AG+ to operators such as Southern.

10x the durability

Nylon R-AG+ is a durable, anti-microbial coating for hand and grab poles which has been shown in independent tests to last ten times longer than polyester powder coating. It can literally be pummelled with a steel pole and not crack – we have a video to prove it if you’d like to see! This durable coating is also resistant to graffiti, abrasions from luggage and will not fade in UV light.

Self-cleaning credentials

Nylon R-AG+ is also more hygienic! It has an antimicrobial additive called Biomaster which is highly effective at reducing levels of bacteria. It is tested to international quality standards carried out at independent labs. In typical tests, Biomaster reduced levels of E.Coli, MRSA, Listeria, Legionnella, Salmonella, Campylobacter and Staphylococcus Aureus by over 99%.

Biomaster is based on silver ion technology and becomes an integral part of the product when it is added. In other words, it can’t leach away or be removed but becomes part of the surface. So it will last as long as the pole, is highly active and doesn’t degrade over time.

Retro-fitting refurb

If your poles are coated with under-performing polyester powder coatings, we can offer a strip and refurbish service to upgrade to Nylon R-AG+.


Nylon R-AG+ is very cost-efficient, reducing the costs of multiple refurbishments over a lifetime – the coating has been proven to last over 20 years in service with the Bombardier built CI220 vehicles.

Are you ready to improve the hygiene levels in your fleets?

Get in touch to find out more about TBM’s flexible and affordable solutions for fleets across the UK. Call us on 0844 800 8577 or email enquiries@tbmrail.com

Since COVID, the demand for increased comfort, hygiene and safety levels from passengers has rightly gone up. Hand in hand with that, the juggle of managing multiple service providers for maintenance, repair and overhaul work is increasingly becoming a more complex task for rail operators.

Why? Because it’s time-consuming, not easy to cost-control or plan for when carried out on an ad-hoc basis, there are more compliance and insurance requirements now, and some areas of routine (but crucial!) maintenance easily get forgotten about – causing further problems in the long run.

When the end goal for all operators is to keep passenger services running efficiently and safely, especially as we emerge from a global pandemic, provision of high quality maintenance and repair services that operators can rely on and manage easily is essential.

At TBM we have over a decade of experience supporting train and bus operators throughout the UK, with the mission to achieve outstanding levels of comfort for all passengers. This is a bridge that crosses hygiene, health and safety, the provision of pleasant & comfortable interiors, and facilities that are in good working order.

However, we have also gained valuable insight into the logistical and cost-related issues faced by operators when juggling multiple service providers. Using different providers for different types of servicing, repair and overhaul has become a logistical nightmare. Plus it’s actually a very inefficient way of keeping trains on the track.

In response to the issues outlined above, it has been our aim to streamline all servicing in relation to passenger comfort so we can provide rail operators with an end-to-end call-out, maintenance, servicing, repair & spares provision across all passenger touch-points. We see ourselves as passenger comfort specialists.

Effectively we act as the middle-man between the operator and specialist service providers, so you don’t have to manage unnecessary logistics or costs.

For routine maintenance, we create bespoke service plans for our operators, resulting in fewer emergency call-outs and no areas of repair left forgotten.

So, how does this work?

We have used our extensive experience and connections within the transport industry to establish collaborations with reputable partners that we (and more importantly you) can rely on to deliver an unrivalled specialist service.

To cover all requirements in relation to train washroom facilities, we have recently partnered with RITS – Rail Installations & Technical Services Ltd. They are the only UK business dedicated to the repair and servicing of train toilet units including toilets, toilet cubicles and toilet doors, and they have over 30 years of experience.

In collaboration with RITS, we can offer a 24 hour emergency call-out service for toilet repairs (with a 12 hour max. response time), along with a comprehensive range of scheduled maintenance options to keep your train toilet units operating at peak efficiency.

Each call-out van is fully equipped with a wide range of essential spare parts to overcome all typical failures and also has both new and refurbished Evac Compact toilet units on board.

In partnership with RITS, we can service and repair all types of train toilet compartments, including:

  • UATs & Compacts
  • PCC – Eco+
  • PCC – Grande
  • Transcal Eclipse
  • Bombardier Alte

RITS carry an extensive stock of spare parts for repairs for vac toilet units, evac compact units, (both with a 12 month warranty) toilet compartment spares including soap dispensers & hand soap, control modules and complete doors.

RITS also have a product development arm to the business for bespoke modifications and operational improvements.

RITS also cover the South West and Wales regarding CET Flushing for TBM.

Everyone at TBM believes that great passenger comfort should come as standard, and one of the main ways of achieving this is streamlining maintenance & repair processes so they are easier to manage.

Do you want to streamline your maintenance and repair work?

Call the team to find out more about TBM’s flexible and affordable solutions for fleets across the UK. If you have any enquiries contact us at 0844 800 8577 or our email enquiries@tbmrail.com

There are lots of benefits to steam cleaning seat covers – it’s quick, cheap, eco-friendly, can be done in situ and there’s no need to use strong detergents or hazardous chemicals.

BUT it has a major downside… It’s not really cleaning them!

How come? Well, seat upholstery on trains has a fire protection coating. So all steam cleaning does is simply break down that fire protection coating, along with the fibres in the seat covers, meaning the covers have a shorter lifespan, there is no elimination of bacteria or viruses and subsequently high upholstery replacement costs.

Time to get serious about seat cover cleaning.

Seat cover cleaning has always languished at the bottom of many operator’s cleaning schedules. A quick mop of any spillages and job done, right? More ‘obvious’ surfaces in washroom facilities, floors and grab poles have always been given priority for cleaning and disinfection.

However, it’s clear that over the last 18 months cleaning procedures have been given much more attention… And press! Hands up if you’ve seen the large teams of cleaners geared up with fogging equipment to clean and disinfect trains between operation times?! Great for the good PR.

Passengers are so much more savvy about levels of cleanliness than they were 18 months ago, and with good reason. An example of (one of many!) tweets from a passenger recently stated: “At least I feel assured on my first outing on a train for 5 months, that @xxxxxxx are keeping it nice and clean. Filthy and looks like it’s not been cleaned for days. Maybe working from home is the future.”

The hassle of tackling something that’s not visible has been the very hard lesson we’ve all had to learn over the last 18 months, and we’re still finding that seat cover-cleaning is not being carried out sufficiently, even though passengers’ exceptions have rightly gone up.

Seat covers are either missed-off official cleaning procedures, possibly due to the deep pile that easily hides the “invisible” contaminants that lurk beneath, or given a quick tickle with a steam cleaner.

A recent study mapping bacteria levels on different surfaces in the London Underground by Zavamed shows there are 6.5x more bacteria on the train seat covers than on the train toilet seats!*

This is also supported by an earlier study from Yeh et al in 2011 where they swabbed 8 cm2 areas and found the mean bacterial colony counts were 97.1 on bus and train floors, 80.1 in cloth seats, 9.5 on handrails and 2.2 on windows.

At TBM Rail we offer a dry cleaning & fibre protection service for seat covers. To date, we have dry cleaned 400,000 seat covers. Although this number seems large, in context it’s actually just the tip of the iceberg and we are passionate about changing the industry’s mindset.

Dry cleaning seat covers properly is not a hassle and it can easily be carried out once every 12 months, with a whole train being serviced over a couple of days. We send our teams in to remove covers and take them away during the train’s downtime – overnight when it’s being refuelled or receiving an examination. Our team then hygienically dry clean and launder the covers, placing them in sealed bags before returning them to the train to be refitted. Job done.

We also offer a fibre protection service – FiberProtector – as part of the cleaning service. FiberProtector can be applied to seat covers and carpets and it works to protect the fabrics from water-based and oil-protection spills, UV sun-fading and makes for easier removal of stubborn stains. Along with prolonging the life of seat covers, FiberProtector supports decarbonisation plans with fewer chemicals used or water required.

Since using FiberProtector, one of our customers has reduced the time spent by cleaners cleaning seat covers in situ without removing them by 70-80%.

As one of the most highly contaminated surfaces in a train after floors, seat covers should be hygienically cleaned as part of an ongoing maintenance programme. Not only to ensure trains are maintained an attractive and pleasant environment for passengers, but also as part of an advanced cleaning plan to tackle the transmission of infections. An important consideration as we return to a new kind of normal.

Are you giving seat covers enough focus in your cleaning procedures?

Vehicles taken out of service and parked up at depots, plus pressure on already busy maintenance staff makes is hard to keep train toilet tanks serviced, but sensors keep CET tanks flowing.

Read more

UK trains services were reduced further at the start of 2021 due to Covid-19 affecting demand, but the enforced downtime of rail vehicles means that fleets can shine when services do ramp up!

Read more

Most of 2020 has been a huge challenge for businesses across the world, but transport and rail services have been hit particularly hard. Operators should aim high in 2021 and raise standards further.

What a year! As if there were not enough challenges hitting targets, keeping services running smoothly and maintaining passenger comfort, Covid 19 has knocked the industry sideways.

While nobody could have predicted the coronavirus pandemic, there are many products and services emerging to help deal with similar outbreaks. TBM is focused on offering train fleet operators the best possible options to help get passengers using services in their numbers again.

For us, it’s now about getting operators to embrace the quick, efficient and affordable services we offer that will have knock-on benefits for passengers who are desperate for clean and hygienic train journeys to resume.

Cleaning and maintenance are key

Go back 30 or 40 years and you might hear people reminiscing about how trains used to be. Delayed, crowed, dirty, outdated – and that’s before we get onto the old British Rail sandwiches!

Seriously, whatever you think about the current UK rail set-up there have been many improvements over recent decades. There has been incredible investment in vehicles, track and buildings. Some would say that the catering has also gone up a few notches.

At TBM, with vast rail and transport experience across a skilled and dedicated management and workforce, we have developed services that enhance the travelling experience.

Put simply, we specialise in passenger comfort.

That means keeping trains clean so that all passengers can step on board with confidence. While they are travelling they should be able to access equipment and facilities safely.

The more proactive operators have realised that scheduled cleaning and maintenance pays dividends, prevents unnecessary closures and costly refits.

Seat cover cleaning

The first thing you see when you enter a train is the seats. Services are often busy, but when you can get a seat you want it to be in good condition and clean.

We go a step further. We deep clean seat covers to ensure all debris, dirt and bacteria are removed. It’s a thorough dry-cleaning process using the latest technology. We remove covers, take them to our Crewe base, get them cleaned, wrapped, packed and returned within a couple of days.

We even hold stocks of replacement covers to help operators keep seats in service.

Considering this year’s Covid experience, we can also add antimicrobial additives to the surface of covers. This repels dirt and spill and forms a protective barrier to help stop the transmission of viruses.

Touchpoints must be kept clean

When you enter a train or move down the carriages it’s inevitable that you need to hold rails and seat backs.

TBM partners a range of providers and manufacturers so that we can offer outstanding carriage and washroom facilities that are safe, clean and hygienic.

We coat grab poles and handles in Nylon R-Ag+ that is proven to stop the transmission of germs and viruses. Those nasties just can’t stick effectively to the surfaces.

During 2020, TBM successfully delivered a grab poles and handles refurbishment project with Bombardier for a fleet of class 220 vehicles.

The innovative coating makes a great addition to any daily cleaning regimes to keep staff and customers safe.

Toilets that work when passenger need them

Any services that last more than half an hour really should have washroom facilities that work. Is there anything worse than finding a train toilet locked out, blocked or in a mess?

We empty CET storage tanks and make sure they are thoroughly cleaned with rail industry approved fluids. It’s a complex process involving skilled operators and powerful machinery.

Our cleaning and maintenance procedures for toilet storage tanks means that facilities can stay open longer – when passengers need them.

We also offer the latest sensor technology to monitor tank levels. This gives us and onboard maintenance teams visibility of tank conditions. We can react quicker when cleaning and emptying is required.

Contact TBM for 2021 cleaning options

Now is the perfect time to plan and get train carriages to the highest standards. Passenger numbers will increase when the Covid situation is brought under control, but operators must do more to gain the public’s confidence.

In a fast-changing industry, UK train operators should aim high in 2021.

We operate from our Crewe base or at fleet depots around the country.

Get in touch to find out more about TBM’s flexible and affordable solutions for fleets across the UK. Call us on 0844 800 8577 or email enquiries@tbmrail.com

Passenger numbers on trains have remained well below pre-Covid levels, so carriages have been taken out of service. However, to avoid hygiene issues it’s vital that you don’t leave CET tanks unattended!

Here’s the worst case scenario: you leave a CET tank with unattended toilet waste inside while a carriage has been parked up at a dept or trackside; guess what happens?

You might expect smells to slowly build up and creep out. Not pleasant. Fluids will eventually harden and start to block the pipes. We’ve told you this before.

Like a grim scene in a horror movie, or something from “I’m A celebrity”, what greeted staff at one of the UK operators was a bit of a shock – to say the least.


Really. Left unattended with waste that really should have been emptied, the CET tank was crawling. The stench was awful. It’s not what depot workers wanted to see, and certainly something that would horrify passengers.

A quick tank cleaning response

An infestation of maggots isn’t something to put the TBM teams off. Not pleasant, for sure, but the cleaning, emptying and sanitising systems and processes we have in place are more than a match for anything that appears inside CET tanks.

But it shouldn’t happen. Any vehicles being parked up should have tanks emptied – and cleaned to ensure that bacteria and viruses cannot flourish while vehicles are left idle.

TBM can access tanks anywhere in the UK. If there are no facilities to empty tanks at smaller or isolated depots, we have bowser tanks to take fluids away for safe disposal.

The cleaning fluids we use to wash through tanks and pipework removes build-ups and stops germs and viruses from taking hold.

It certainly stops an invasion of maggots!

Regular maintenance avoids health & safety concerns

It’s not acceptable letting tanks deteriorate to a state where something like maggots can flourish. It wasn’t intended, but it cannot be allowed to happen.

There are enough negative stories associated with the railways following the outbreak of coronavirus, the last thing the industry needs is further negative press because of other hygiene horrors.

Getting scheduled maintenance programmes in place is essential.

TBM can support train fleet operators from our Crewe base or around the country at any depot. We have a range of professional cleaning machinery that is compatible with all toilet storage tanks.

Our service is an affordable and cost-effective solution to keep passenger facilities working when they are needed. It helps you offer travellers clean and hygienic washrooms.

For information about any of TBM’s services, please call 0844 800 8577 or email enquiries@tbmrail.com

TBM has grown steadily since 2010 to offer a diverse range of products and services to the UK Rail sector. The arrival of consultant Phil Brown will enable us to explore many new opportunities.

Phil joins the TBM team and brings with him 30 years’ experience of automotive and rail. Phil has extensive knowledge of seating systems. This crosses over perfectly with TBM’s involvement with carriage interiors and seating for trains, trams and buses.

He has also worked with key manufacturers, selling light rail vehicles, with time also spent helping to roll out vehicles across to the growing UK tram network.

Neil Smith and Phil Brown at TBM in Crewe

Promoting UK manufacturing

Passionate about UK manufacturing, Phil hopes that many of the country’s fleet operators will utilise the existing and potential expertise of firms that can support the development, refurbishment and servicing of products used in rail vehicles.

He said: “Like many growing SMEs, getting to see fleet managers regularly can be a challenge for service providers like TBM. One of my objectives is to start conversations and open doors to new opportunities.

“There is a chance to build new relationships across the railway industry as we all adapt to the changes brought on by the coronavirus.

“I will be working hard to develop conversations with the industry trade associations, getting through red tape and making connections possible. That’s somewhere I feel comfortable having held senior roles within influential trade organisations.

“TBM has so much to offer and it’s my goal to ensure that all UK rail fleets are aware of the services available to improve passenger comfort.”

Promoting TBM’s offering

As more high-specification rolling stock arrives in the UK, giving passengers better quality facilities, there is a great opportunity for smaller UK operators to offer support and maintenance services.

In recent years there has been a focus on mainland Europe and Asia for replacement parts and refurbishment materials when carriages and equipment have needed overhauling.

TBM has worked with numerous UK fleets to refit carriage interiors, washroom, and install power and USB charge points. The experienced staff can offer much more than simply supply and installation of parts. They get involved in the coordination of whole projects.

Neil Smith, TBM Director, added: “For some time we have hoped to see a shift back to UK manufacturing and supply of rail parts. There’s a need to change the mindset that everything can be imported from the cheapest supplier.

“We have shown many times that using quality, trusted suppliers and maintaining equipment properly can lead to longer term cost savings. There’s also much less disruption for passengers. Vehicles and equipment are kept in service when they are needed.

“The arrival of Phil will hopefully enable us to get this message out there. Ideally, we’ll see a shift back to UK designed and built parts and machinery. That will be great for jobs and the economy.

Overcoming challenges

Phil said: “This year has been a real challenge for all operators. Even Transport for London has needed a rescue package, and we’d like to develop our working relationships with their teams.

“TBM has so much to offer as we already work in and around London with many of the mainline fleet operators.

“OEMs need to be ready for the challenges ahead. I’d like to see TBM at the front of the queue.”

For information about any of TBM’s services, please call 0844 800 8577 or email enquiries@tbmrail.com

Recent Covid sewage tests highlight the need to clean train CET storage tanks regularly, as data shows many people with the virus are showing few or any symptoms.

TBM has pushed for more regular and structured cleaning and maintenance of toilet storage tanks for many years. Each day, we see the dangerous waste that builds up in essential passenger facilities.

With the coronavirus an ongoing major threat to health, keeping train washrooms clean, hygienic and safe is more important than ever.

With vaccines now thankfully on the horizon, it’s important that equipment is maintained to the highest standards. That must continue until we are all safe from the virus threat.

Even then, we should see thorough cleaning regimes as the new normal.

Virus transmission risks

Earlier this year, statistics released by the Office for National (ONS) revealed that 71% of people who had tested positive for coronavirus had not displayed any of the key symptoms.

This presents challenges. That means that people go about their daily lives oblivious to the fact that they could be spreading the virus.

On trains, asymptomatic people are using the toilets without knowing that they have Covid.

As the CET tanks are emptied, this poses a threat to depot staff, contract cleaning companies and potentially the public.

A government-led scheme to analyse sewage for traces of coronavirus is now up and running at around 90 treatment plants around the UK.

The findings show that fragments of virus are passing through the system – often from areas where no outbreak has been identified.

This means that asymptomatic people are unknowingly passing coronavirus on.

Testing, information and disinfection

Feedback from the surveys suggests that rolling out the analysis to more sewage treatment plants could help to identify hotspots quicker.

For TBM, there could be an opportunity to safely support this initiative. We could easily pass samples on to the appropriate agencies as we empty CET tanks.

However, our core aim remains sanitising and disinfecting CET tanks on a regular basis. Well maintained tanks have less chance of blocking or passing on infections further down the chain.

Our Crewe depot is set up to put train toilet equipment through a thorough cleaning and servicing programme. This ensures that the washroom facilities are maintained and kept working when passengers need them.

Reducing the spread of infection has become a key element of the work we do – in washrooms, for seat covers, grab poles and other areas of carriage interiors and passenger touch points.

Contact TBM for CET tank servicing

Getting rail toilet services back on track is essential, but so too is safety. TBM technicians operate safe working practices and use the latest equipment and techniques to get CET tanks clean and hygienic.

From Crewe we offer a range of cleaning, overhaul, spares management and consultancy services. This is backed up by our mobile teams that can visit client depots all over the UK.

Get in touch to find out more. Call 0844 800 8577 or email enquiries@tbmrail.com

There’s nothing worse than finding a train toilet locked out because of damaged or aged sensor equipment. TBM has options so fleet operators can avoid failures to keep toilets open…

There’s an ongoing battle to keep rail passenger washroom facilities not only clean and hygienic, but available for use and working efficiently.

On board toilets are monitored using sensors to gauge the levels of waste that tanks are carrying. Inevitably, because large volumes of material are flushed down train toilets, sensors and other parts of the system can be damaged or obstructed.

This is especially true if CET tanks and connected pipework and sensors are not included in thorough maintenance schedules. You just can’t leave it until things fail.

The result is locked toilet doors when the sensors fail or they report blockages that could have been avoided.

Worse still, with Covid concerns about human waste sitting in tanks for long periods, there are additional health worries.

Float sensors block without maintenance

TBM supports fleet operators across the UK rail network. We offer a range of servicing and maintenance packages that help to keep CET tanks and toilet systems operational.

During Covid times, it’s essential that the reduced passenger numbers are offered the best possible comfort when they travel. It’s the ideal time to get things right.

Each time we assess the systems that keep toilets operational the wear and tear is plain to see. Often, float sensors are prone to failure if neglected.

Tissue and congealed waste wraps around the sensor and causes parts to fail. They can report “full” tanks when this is not the case.

Ultimately, the system shuts down and leaves train toilet doors closed whether the CET tank is full or not.

Quality sensor equipment is available

TBM now offers a range of quality sensors to monitor and control toilet tanks and the associated systems to keep them working. They come in stainless steel housings that are tough, robust and capable of working in the harshest environments.

Crucially, these sensors measure actual levels, not just when systems and tanks get full. Maintenance teams are given advance warning so that tanks can be emptied and serviced.

These reliable sensors can also be retrofitted to existing systems, so no need for costly replacements of tanks and other washroom parts.

CET tanks still get the full treatment from skilled TBM operatives. We use industry approved cleaning solutions. More reliable sensor parts means the chance of keeping train washroom facilities available more often increases considerably.

Our skills technicians always assess components and replace essential parts if required. Then we test, again and again, the electrics and valves. It’s all part of the comprehensive service we offer.

TBM helps you provide outstanding passenger comfort

We believe that great passenger comfort should come as standard. That’s why we have tailored a range of services to support the different train operating companies across the UK rail network.

Fleet maintenance teams need support – especially now. Having a trusted partner to handle the scheduled CET maintenance and supply and install quality sensors means that your teams can focus on other areas of the business.

Leave the rest to us.

TBM is the perfect CET partner to keep carriage washroom facilities working efficiently. They are then available to use by passengers when they need them – every journey.

If your fleet encounters any other issues, or damage to the CET tank systems or even outer casings, just ask us for further details about supporting your teams.

Get in touch to find out more about TBM’s flexible and affordable solutions for fleets across the UK. Call us on 0844 800 8577 or email enquiries@tbmrail.com