Coating Image

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