Rail companies and cleaning contractors failing on cleanliness standards

Rail companies and cleaning contractors failing on cleanliness standards

11 May 2024

RMT has exposed rail companies and their cleaning contractors for failing to keep trains and stations clean, in a damning new report and survey.

Analysing publicly available data and result from an RMT survey of 800 members working as contracted out cleaners on the railway, the union has found a series of shortcomings.
Under the contracts with the Department for Transport, train companies are required to stick to strict rules about keeping trains and stations up to a high cleanliness standard.
This plays a major part in the passenger experience and is part of the safety regime on the railways.
Alarming deficiencies exist in outsourced cleaning services, including in both 2022-23 and 2023-24, six out of ten franchises failed to meet annual cleaning targets.
Examples include Bidvest Noonan on c2c, OCS on Great Western and South-Western, and Churchill on Southeastern and Govia Thameslink railways.
In a survey with 800 respondents, RMT found:
66% of surveyed outsourced cleaners believe the situation is worse than publicly reported, dismissing inspections as superficial.
75% report a surge in workload since starting their jobs.
Over 85% frequently come under pressure to take on additional tasks.
80% feel compelled to cut corners due to overwhelming pressure.
Cleanliness stands as a cornerstone of passenger experience, yet the current outsourcing model prioritises private profit for shareholders than keeping the railways in good working order.
Recent reports have shed light on Avanti West Coast managers' derogatory remarks regarding the service quality regime, dismissing it as an opportunity for 'free money'.
The DfT has also been found to lower benchmarks to aid train companies in meeting targets, further undermining the integrity of the system.
RMT General Secretary, Mick Lynch said: "The current state of cleanliness on our railways is a complete disgrace.
"Despite contractual obligations, many train operators  are failing to uphold basic cleanliness standards, putting passenger satisfaction and safety at risk.
"The exploitation of contracted out cleaners and the degradation of cleanliness standards is not something that should be tolerated.
"Train company bosses must be held accountable for their failures, and all cleaning services on the railway must be brought back in house as a matter of urgency. 
"Without in-sourcing as opposed to outsourcing, it will not be possible to rectify shortcomings in railway cleanliness standards.
"Our members safety and preventing their super exploitation is our number one priority and the passenger experience must also be taken into account if we are to encourage people to use our railways."


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