Please hold the handrails

Request ID: FOI-2410-1819
Date published: 14 January 2019

You asked

Hello, Under the Freedom of Information act I want to enquire as to how often the handrails at stations within the TFL network are actually cleaned. Given the advice to 'please hold the handrails' at almost every station both in terms of billboards and in terms of tannoy announcements it would be useful to understand how often the handrails are actually cleaned. The TFL network transports nearly two million people on an almost daily basis and I fear that the advice and push is actually leading to the spread of germs and infections and diseases especially apparent during the colder winter months as the hand rails are not cleaned often enough. Failing this, putting hand sanitizer at stations would or could alleviate some of the problems.

We answered

TfL Ref: 2410-1819

Thank you for your email received by us on 12 December 2018 asking for information about how often handrails on Transport for London (TfL) services are cleaned.

Your request has been considered in accordance with the requirements of the Environmental Information Regulations and our information access policy. I can confirm that we hold some of the information you require. You asked for the following:

Given the advice to 'please hold the handrails' at almost every station both in terms of billboards and in terms of tannoy announcements it would be useful to understand how often the handrails are actually cleaned.

The TFL network transports nearly two million people on an almost daily basis and I fear that the advice and push is actually leading to the spread of germs and infections and diseases especially apparent during the colder winter months as the hand rails are not cleaned often enough

We would not consider the risk of disease transmission any different from that in other public places. Most diseases are spread via respiratory droplets through the respiration route or via ingestion, normally through consumption of food or water. It is acknowledged that some disease is spread through hand to mouth action following the touching of contaminated surfaces. It is understood that some Influenza, Common Cold and Norwalk (and other Gastrointestinal viruses) may be spread in this manner.

As the risk is no greater than in other public environments where large numbers of people mingle such as shopping centres and airports. the public would be encouraged to follow NHS / Public Health England (PHE) recommendations on how to minimise the risk of disease transmission such as coughing and sneezing into a handkerchief, washing hands before eating, and covering wounds on the hand that may come into contact with surfaces.

In reference to cleaning, London Underground hand rails are regularly cleaned as part of station cleaning rotas outside of operating hours. This will involve the use of cleaning chemicals with a sanitiser component. Train poles are spot cleaned nightly during the train’s mini clean and are included in the periodic heavy clean carried out with the following frequencies:

23 days - Northern line
22 days - Piccadilly line
17 days - Jubilee line

The Bakerloo, Central, Waterloo and City, Victoria, Metropolitan, Circle, Hammersmith & City and District lines undergo the following cleaning regime:

• Pre-service clean - Nightly sweep and dusting of floors and surfaces, including removal of litter and cleaning of train poles. Seats are brushed and wiped on the sub-surface line section of the network.
• Mini clean – Implemented on a nightly basis dependent on a train’s arrival into the depot. Inclusive of floor, pole and surface cleaning every two to three days.
• 21 day clean – This currently works on a 21 day rotation and covers the cleaning of interior train poles, vacuuming of seats and cleaning floors

Buses are swept clean at the end of each day or driver’s shift. At the same time the general cleanliness of the bus, including its handrails, is assessed and any concerns are addressed.

Approximately every three months a deep cleanse is carried out, although the exact timescales differ between bus operating companies. Cleanliness assurance is provided by ‘Monitoring through Mystery Shoppers’ (MTS), where random checks are carried out and any issues are taken up with the bus operators.

Handrails are wiped twice daily on the Docklands Light Railway before the morning peak and between 13:00 and the beginning of the evening peak at each operator station.

If this is not the information you are looking for, or if you are unable to access it for any reason, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Please see the attached information sheet for details of your right to appeal as well as information on copyright and what to do if you would like to re-use any of the information we have disclosed.

Yours sincerely

Jasmine Howard
FOI Case Officer
Information Governance
Transport For London

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