Graffiti on trains

Graffiti damage runs into the millions for rail operators

Graffiti on trains can easily results in millions worth of costs. 2023, ÖBB / Michael Fritscher

The financial damage to rolling stock due to graffiti runs into the millions annually, recent reports from Renfe, ÖBB, Dutch Railways and SNCB-NMBS have revealed.

Spanish operator Renfe last month announced that in 2022, graffiti resulted in 25 million euros worth of costs, equal to 69.000 euros per day. Last year, some 80,000 square metres worth of train body area was spray painted. This necessitate a large and costly cleaning operation. Some 10,500 working hours had to be spent on the cleaning effort, resulting in an energy use of 400,000 kWh.

Renfe counted more than 3,500 intrusions at its facilities and sites by people wanting to use graffiti. This comes down to 10 incidents per day. The authorities were able to apprehend 33 individuals last year, 150 of whom were brought to justice. Patrols by security personnel prevented 829 incidents, Renfe shared.

Database

ÖBB published its numbers on graffiti on Wednesday, saying it had suffered 3.2 million euros in damage in 2022. That year, 2.946 incidents were reported, an increase of 37 per cent over the year prior. According to the Austrian operator, this up tick is due to a greater number of active graffiti artists as well as improved reporting. ÖBB also fared well in the courts, with successful claims for damages to the tune of a than 500,000 euros, a new record.

ÖBB has been keeping record of graffiti for years, compiling a database of tags and incidents. This helps in solving older cases and results in catching almost 24 perpetrators on average every year. Last year, 32 individuals were caught in the act.

Dutch Railways (NS) works with a similar database, which is also being used by Amsterdam transport company GVB. The operators declined to share the most recent figures about the financial costs of graffiti, as it does not want to give “those in that scene” any ideas. On average it results in a bill of some 10 million euros. The spray painted area on trains totals around 40 football pitches every year, a spokes person shared with RailTech.

SNCB-NMNS in Belgium last year had to clean 218.590 square metres of surface area of trains, compared to 174.794 square metres the year before. As a result, the costs shot up from 5.4 million euros in 2021 to 6.78 million last year, the company said in a response to RailTech.

OBB train being cleaned
ÖBB reported almost 3.000 incidents last year. Image: ÖBB

Protective film

In a bid to counter the problem, many operators have in recent years turned to protective films for their rolling stock. One such specialised firm is Fleetshield, because the film itself is not just any product. While essentially off the shelf, the material does need to meet certain requirements for rail application, and configuring the film to meet these requirements takes skill and experience. This is especially true in meeting the EN-45545 standard on fire protection, Van Son says.

“The film needs to have a certain mechanical resilience and it needs to be able to withstand UV light and chemicals. It even needs to be able to cope with the specific detergents that individual operators use to clean train cars or to remove graffiti with. On top of that, the film should not crack, stretch or detach, and the separate batches need to be identical”, managing director Jeroen van Son said in a recent interview.

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Author: Nick Augusteijn

Former Chief Editor of RailTech.com

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