November 2010 in Train Operations
Toilet waste being discharged onto the tracks between Portsmouth and Cardiff is a concern for two reporters.
Staff working on track find themselves routinely exposed to this hazard and comment that the risk of cross-contamination is not entirely mitigated by disposable overalls or anti-bacterial hand washes.
As previously raised in CIRAS report 40955, the use of 'old stock' trains has led to waste being directly flushed onto the track, as there are no containment tanks fitted on these trains. However, it is felt that even when containment tanks are available they are not being used, as they are expensive to clean. Therefore flushing the waste directly on to the track seems to be favoured. Instances have also been seen where tanks are leaking waste, suggesting a problem with the seals.
Concern has also arisen about the health risks posed to passengers using certain stations as sometimes they are only metres away from waste on the tracks. A number of stations in particular have been highlighted - Romsey, Salisbury and Southampton.
For First Great Western (FGW):
For South West Trains (SWT):
South West Trains share the reporters' concerns regarding train toilet waste. We have systems in place to prevent our rolling stock from discharging onto the track bed and to remove waste from other train operators rolling stock at South West Trains operated stations, in association with Network Rail.
Please comment on the use of containment tanks and any plans in place to control the risk of toilet waste leaking onto the tracks.
South West Trains operate Class 444 and 450 Desiro electric units and Class 158 and 159 diesel units over this route.
All Desiro units are fitted with retention tanks and these tanks have not been identified as leaking on any occasion, neither have leaks been found during maintenance.
These units are fitted with float switches inside the retention tank, which automatically lock toilets out of use before the tank reaches full, so the potential for overflow is very low. The Class 158 and 159 fleets are also fitted with retention tanks and, again our Fleet Engineers confirm that no leaks have ever been reported and none have been found during maintenance.
Therefore we are confident that toilet waste that is found in the South West Trains area track bed comes from other train operators' rolling stock.
Are SWT responsible for ensuring that Salisbury and Southampton stations are clear of toilet waste?
Our track access agreements require us to contribute towards the cleaning of tracks both inside and outside station boundaries at both of these locations.
Network Rail are responsible for cleaning litter from the track bed - this includes toilet waste from rolling stock and, is included in their track cleaning regime.
South West Trains have highlighted this CIRAS report to Network Rail to make them aware and to initiate the assessment and track cleaning process.