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ARR063 - The problem of rail waste - IMAGE


A Train’s 40-Year Lifespan Relies on Proper H&S Procedures

A recent feature on the BBC’s Inside Out programme unveiled that one in ten of Britain’s train carriages dispose toilet waste straight onto the railway tracks. In this blog post, James Lomas, national sales manager of professional rail cleaning chemicals manufacturer Arrow Solutions has called for the potentially hazardous practice to be stopped by retrofitting older trains with sealed storage tanks. The company has also explained the financial and hygiene benefits of performing correct maintenance of effluent tanks.

Rail toilet waste that currently gets sprayed directly onto the tracks is an environmental and Health & Safety hazard, not to mention a particularly unpleasant and old fashioned practice. Train operating companies are currently working hard to retrofit older trains with sealed effluent tanks, but the progress is relatively slow.

Rail toilet waste that  is sprayed directly onto the tracks is an obvious Health and Safety hazard

Rail toilet waste that is sprayed directly onto the tracks is an obvious Health and Safety hazard

Trains built in the last couple of decades have sealed effluent tanks. The problem is that a lot of the current rolling stock is of an older generation and lack these tanks, so the first crucial step is for train operating companies to retrofit storage tanks wherever they are needed.

However, the story doesn’t end here. Effluent tanks need to be maintained because over a number of years, scale build-up in the tanks can make them unhygienic and reduce functionality.

Continuous and preventive maintenance stops scale build-up and helps break down organic matter in a safe and controlled way. New rolling stock needs to be treated to avoid scale build-up in the storage tank and the toilet area. For older trains with effluent tanks, maintenance involves two steps: first, the organic matter in the tank needs to be broken down using the relevant chemicals. In the second stage, tank walls are descaled through chemical treatment.

Maintenance and cleaning is essential for train operating companies, particularly when it comes to sensitive areas such as toilets and effluent tanks. However, using a sanitiser containing a biocide on the underside of all rolling stock is incredibly important too. This helps minimise the health risks to anyone working under there. Workers have to contend not only with toilet waste in some cases, but more commonly, any unhygienic debris that the train might have picked up on its travels.

A non-caustic detergent should be used so as not to harm the infrastructure under rolling stock or the person applying it.

Manufacturers expect the life span of a train to be about 40-years, but only if correct maintenance is performed regularly and Health & Safety procedures properly maintained.

Did you see the Inside Out programme? What do you make of
train carriages disposing their waster directly onto tracks?

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