Five tips for train presentation

10 April 2015

Mystery shopping is a common practice in the rail sector. When it comes to cleanliness, standards are high and with 1.59 billion passenger journeys made in Great Britain in 2013-2014, it’s not uncommon for train operating companies (TOCs) to get lower mystery shopper scores than expected. To help train presentation managers, James Lomas, rail sales manager of Arrow Solutions, has put together a checklist to ensure trains are spotless all year round

1) Know your products, routes and passengers

The first thing every rail presentation manager learns is that each train route and operating environment is different. For example, trains that travel through busy metropolitan areas will face different soiling than those on rural routes. Also, trains stopping at stations close to say, coal mines or quarries will probably need more attention than other routes when it comes to interior cleaning.

After finding out the specific cleaning challenges of a route, train presentation managers should investigate what cleaning products are available. Using the right product for the right job can save a great deal of time, effort and money. For example, a general cleaning solution might be suitable for daily exterior washing, but it probably won’t remove brake dust or ferrous staining from rolling stock. By liaising with suppliers, TOCs can make sure they are using the right products and following the recommended dilution rates and directions for use. 

2) Stick to your cleaning schedule

Two things that often get neglected are the cleaning schedule and staff training. In 45 years of supplying cleaning chemicals to the rail industry, we’ve seen many cases of companies that were doing everything right, but because of insufficient product training for the cleaning staff, the results were not always as expected. The moral of the story is to create a cleaning schedule and correct cleaning procedures and make sure cleaning staff stick to them.

3) Don’t forget your winter strategy

The UK’s unpredictable weather system often causes problems for TOCs. The cold season in particular is a time of additional cleaning challenges. To make sure they never get caught off guard, train presentation managers need to stock up in time for winter, which usually brings with it heavier levels of soiling. 

Keeping trains, platforms and tracks clear of ice is a seasonal challenge that can only be overcome by using dedicated winter products. Although not all winters are like the Big Freeze of 1963, it’s better to be safe than sorry and stock up on winter products that work down to -20 degrees Celsius.

4) Exterior cleaning is crucial

The first thing any passenger comes into contact with is the train exterior. Ensuring the paintwork looks spotless and the windows are free of dirt, marks and stains creates an excellent first impression.  

To protect paintwork, livery and vinyl, a neutral cleaner with controlled pH levels of between 8.0 and 10.0 depending on the dilution, should be considered. pH neutral detergents can be employed in everyday cleaning without being treated before disposal, since they aren’t hazardous to the environment. 

Although pH neutral chemicals are not particularly aggressive, they can remove oil, grease, dirt and grime from rolling stock, while leaving a streak-free and gleaming finish, with a resistance to re-soiling and water marks.

5) Get rid of nasty stains and odours

Cleaning and sanitising effluent tanks, toilet areas and emergency spills are some of the most unpleasant tasks facing railway staff. Stocking relevant products on every train and training staff to adopt a customer-focused approach are the only ways of meeting passenger expectations while also controlling costs. 

Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, once said that customers are like guests to a party the company is hosting – the firm needs to provide a pleasant, memorable experience. Similarly, in rail, customer service and comfort are becoming more important to passengers year on year. If in doubt, TOCs can always consult specialist cleaning manufacturers about how to keep the party under control without spoiling the mood.