Deep clean

Fancy a spot of clean­ing? South Western Rail­way set it­self a tar­get of 100 days to deep clean ev­ery train. PAUL CLIFTON dis­cov­ers what the work in­volves

Rail (UK) - - Con­tents - RAIL pho­tog­ra­phy: PAUL CLIFTON

Wal­lets, gum, nee­dles… and much worse! Join the team car­ry­ing out a deep clean on South Western Rail­way’s Class 450s.

“You find all sorts of things stuffed down the seats. Food, credit cards, even nee­dles and used con­doms.” Daryl War­ren looks up from his scrub­bing, his hands in blue dis­pos­able gloves. “It’s not very nice some­times.”

South West Trains was deep clean­ing its rolling stock once ev­ery 210 days, ac­cord­ing to re­place­ment fran­chise op­er­a­tor South Western Rail­way. It says that meant the ve­hi­cles were look­ing grubby and shabby - the car­pets were stained, with chew­ing gum stuck fast on the thread­bare seat fab­rics.

SWR promised to clean ev­ery train dur­ing its first 100 days of op­er­a­tion. That time ran out at the end of Novem­ber, and it came close to meet­ing its tar­get. Each train takes a day to deep clean - that’s 15,000 hours of el­bow grease across six de­pots since Au­gust.

In fu­ture, SWR plans to per­form a deep clean on ev­ery train ev­ery 30 days. That’s seven times more fre­quently than be­fore.

At Frat­ton de­pot in Portsmouth, War­ren pours limescale re­mover onto the yel­low metal strip across the edge of the floor in the door­way of a Class 450. He works for clean­ing con­trac­tor ISS.

“Peo­ple just get on the train in the morn­ing and hope­fully think ‘yeah, it’s clean’. But you should see it at the end of the day: pretty messy. Used cloth­ing? I can see how peo­ple could leave that be­hind when they get off. Used con­tra­cep­tives? No, I can’t see how peo­ple would leave them. Not in the toi­lets, but on the seats. Re­ally?”

War­ren was hired specif­i­cally for this con­tract, so he has been work­ing on the rail­way for 100 days. Does he clean his own house this thor­oughly?

“No!” he laughs. “But my place wouldn’t ever get this dirty. This is pub­lic trans­port.”

Work­ing in teams of four peo­ple, the deep clean­ers sweep then vac­uum all seat up­hol­stery. Most of it is done on the night shift.

Us­ing a spe­cial plas­tic tool, Mary Duncan digs be­tween the pieces of cloth sep­a­rat­ing the 3+2 seat­ing in Stan­dard Class. Out comes old tick­ets, food wrap­pers, and stale hard­ened frag­ments of dis­carded lunch.

“Sweet wrap­pers, pa­per, mostly that sort of stuff,” she ex­plains. “But other stuff too. Not of­ten. But we get nee­dles. And worse.”

She sweeps, vac­u­ums and mops the train floors, us­ing a big com­mer­cial steam cleaner that is far re­moved from the Dyson or Henry we use at home. Win­dows, doors, plas­tic pan­elling, grilles pro­tect­ing light­ing, ledges, lug­gage racks, lit­ter bins and ta­bles are all scrubbed. Graf­fiti is re­moved.

“Chew­ing gum is prob­a­bly the big­gest prob­lem,” ex­plains War­ren. “We have a ma­chine to loosen it. But if it has been stuck on cloth seats for weeks or maybe months, it doesn’t want to come off eas­ily.”

Over­see­ing the teams at all SWR de­pots is duty man­ager Tracy Win­ter­bone, from ISS.

“Some peo­ple leave their food shop­ping be­hind,” she says. “We get a few wal­lets, credit cards and so on. Then there is the day-to-day rub­bish -news­pa­pers, sweets, chew­ing gum. And then there is vomit. But we do get nee­dles and con­doms.”

Win­ter­bone gets a very dif­fer­ent view of pas­sen­gers from the rest of us: “You just re­ally wish peo­ple would pick up their own rub­bish. It’s hard to un­der­stand how peo­ple can’t make it to the toi­let, and some­times do their busi­ness on the closed toi­let seat.”

In­con­gru­ously, she grins and adds: “I love my job. I thor­oughly en­joy my job.” Re­ally? “Trains come in dirty and they go out clean. We take pride in what we do. Pas­sen­gers can’t see it. They prob­a­bly don’t even think about it. They take it for granted. But what would it be like without us?”

Charlie Hatcher is South Western Rail­way’s newly ap­pointed Head of Clean­ing and Train Pre­sen­ta­tion. He has come from Na­tional Ex­press coaches. A few weeks into the job, he is still get­ting to know the de­pots.

“Our trains have not had a sub­stan­tial deep clean for a con­sid­er­able amount of time now. We are mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion. I don’t now why it was not done more of­ten. Our cus­tomers clearly value clean­li­ness highly along with punc­tu­al­ity. That’s the feed­back we’ve had. We think it’s worth in­vest­ing in that.

“A deep clean starts on the ceil­ing and in­side the light fit­tings, and works down to the floor. It in­cludes ar­eas that our cus­tomers don’t see, but which still af­fect the qual­ity of their jour­ney. Cus­tomers should be see­ing a dif­fer­ence right away. If they don’t, then they will as we move into this regime of deep clean­ing ev­ery 30 days.”

SWR knows it will be a long hard slog to change per­cep­tions. Its first months of op­er­a­tion have been marred by con­tin­u­ing engi­neer­ing dis­rup­tion on the ap­proaches to

Water­loo, as Net­work Rail up­grades the sta­tion to han­dle longer trains. There have been fre­quent sig­nalling prob­lems fol­low­ing the length­en­ing of Plat­forms 1-4.

On Novem­ber 26, SWR says Plat­forms 1-16 were taken out of use by Net­work Rail, leav­ing only three plat­forms avail­able. It was done with min­i­mal no­tice.

The train op­er­a­tor has signed a con­tract with Siemens to re­fur­bish its train fleet at the for­mer Eastleigh works. That will start within a few weeks and in­clude an in­te­rior re­fresh, with new seat cov­ers to re­place the fray­ing orig­i­nals. Re­fur­bish­ment of the older Class 442 Wes­sex Electrics will also start shortly at Eastleigh, in prepa­ra­tion for ser­vices on the Portsmouth line.

Stage­coach was per­ceived to have taken its eye off the ball in the clos­ing months of the fran­chise. With the change of own­er­ship, only a hand­ful of key ex­ec­u­tives have ac­tu­ally changed. Al­most all 4,500 staff are in the same roles as be­fore. But the com­pany hopes pas­sen­gers will soon start to see an up­turn in the qual­ity of ser­vice.

Tracy Win­ter­bone, Duty Man­ager, ISS Charlie Hatcher, Head of Clean­ing and Train Pre­sen­ta­tion, South Western Rail­way

Trains come in dirty and they go out clean. We take pride in what we do. Pas­sen­gers can’t see it. They prob­a­bly don’t even think about it. They take it for granted. But what would it be like without us?

Our cus­tomers clearly value clean­li­ness highly along with punc­tu­al­ity. That’s the feed­back we’ve had. We think it’s worth in­vest­ing in that.

Cleaner Daryl War­ren gets to grips with the in­te­rior of a South Western Rail­way Class 450.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.