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Refreshing UK Rail Facilities Post COVID

Masked commuter
24 May 2021

With commuters and train conductors returning to the workplace and a gradual lifting of leisure-related restrictions, rail operators are preparing for an increase in passenger footfall. SOCOTEC considers what is involved in restoring safety and confidence aside from the obvious, particularly in regards to water systems and rolling stock that may have been left dormant.

In order to cope with the increased level of demand, it is likely that additional services will be timetabled, requiring the use of rolling stock and station facilities which may have been taken out of use or even mothballed during lockdown. The Department for Transport announced last week that a new public body, Great British Railways, will integrate the railways and manage all rail infrastructure. This will be the biggest change in railway infrastructure in 25 years. The public body will collect fare revenue, run and plan the network, and set most fares and timetables. The government has stated that there will remain a "substantial and often greater role for the private sector" within the new system.

As part of the plan to get the nation back on track over the coming months, there are a number of factors that rail operators and organisations must take into consideration to ensure that they maintain a safe, compliant and efficient customer service and working environment. 




Legionella and Water Management


One key area that rail operators must take into account when getting their trains and station facilities back up and running is managing the level of risk posed by Legionella, which can colonise water systems such as cold water storage tanks, pipe runs, hot water systems and little used outlets.

With some station and office facilities having been out of use – or in the case of rolling stock, even mothballed – over the lockdown period, there is an increased chance of water systems housing stagnant water, an environment in which Legionella bacteria is known to thrive. Rinnai, global leader in gas appliance manufacturing, recently reminded of the importance of checking for Legionella, or moving to continuous hot water flow systems like those in their range.

Given the time periods involved which in some cases, are approaching a full year, these systems will need to be recommissioned as if they are a new build before coming back into use. If the assets had been mothballed, water systems including those on board trains must be subjected to regular monitoring and maintenance, which can include regular cleaning, flushing, inspection and disinfection – see the  HSE Technical Guidance HSG274 Part 2 and British Standard document PD855468:2015 for full details.

A Legionella risk assessment will determine how frequently these tasks need to be carried out to keep the level of risk posed by the bacteria at a minimum and safeguard the health and wellbeing of employees and passengers. SOCOTEC provides a comprehensive range of Legionella consultancy and management services, including compliance audits, risk assessments and training courses.   


Rolling Stock Maintenance


Like any kind of machinery, if rolling stock is not properly or regularly maintained, it has the capacity to lead to widespread disruption and delays, as well as significantly compromising the health and safety of passengers and workers.

As many trains will have been out of use or used less frequently over the course of the pandemic, it is therefore increasingly likely that parts of the engine/machinery may have deteriorated or given way to undetected issues.

Engine wear and lubricant condition quality are two elements which are fundamental to the safety and reliability of locomotives, so rail organisations should regularly test and analyse oils, coolants and greases on their rolling stock to ensure that they are operating smoothly.

By undertaking oil condition monitoring at regular intervals, rail organisations can pre-empt and identify any early stage faults that would have otherwise gone undetected until the asset had failed. Not only will this increase the longevity and integrity of rolling stock, but it will also ensure the health and safety of your workforce and passengers.




To provide your employees and passengers with peace of mind as life begins to resume a more normal pace, it is highly recommended that you commit to a regular cleaning and testing programme to identify the presence of COVID-19 within station or office facilities in addition to on board rolling stock.

SOCOTEC’s environmental swabbing service uses sterile swabs and contact plates to test for microbiological contamination on a range of surfaces, such as door handles, table tops, control panels, seat backs, sinks and toilet cubicles. SOCOTEC provides a comprehensive range of Legionella consultancy and management services, rolling stock maintenance,compliance audits, risk assessments and training courses.


Picture: masked commuter on the train.

Article written by Bailey Sparkes | Published 24 May 2021


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