Crewe-based TBM Rail has begun a complete refurbishment of passenger grab poles, rails and handles for the Southern (GTR) fleet of Class 377 vehicles.

The upgrade work involves sand-blasting the old polyester layers, before applying a new coating of Nylon R-AG from TBM Rail’s powder-coating partner, Omnikote.

The project will see nearly 700 carriages overhauled across three years, with vehicles only out of traffic for a week to lessen the impact on service users.

The Cheshire passenger comfort specialist supplied coatings for Southern’s carriage fittings seven years ago, but increasing customer numbers now demands tougher, harder-wearing surfaces.

Neil Smith, TBM Rail director, said: “We were asked to source and provide a solution to the ageing polyester coatings that in today’s climate are no longer fit for purpose.

“Rail passengers quite rightly demand higher carriage standards. Chipped and damaged poles and handles is not acceptable. Nylon R-AG is resistant to most damage.

“Train operators are under pressure on many levels, so raising carriage standards is a step in the right direction.

“Our industry experience and partnership with Omnikote has enabled us to deliver a top product that will last, look good and prevent costly mid-franchise repairs.

“Securing the contract to work with Southern again shows the confidence in our products and services.”

The upgrade affects all three and four-unit class 377 sets that operate on Southern services.

TBM Rail will also replace rubber, silicone and neoprene gaskets during the refurbishment.

Working with fleet operators across the country, TBM Rail also provides seat cleaning services, toilet and tank overhauls, capacitive sensors for door access, and carriage power charge points for travellers.