Clean public transport

15th of June 2010

ECJ correspondent Thomas Schulte-Marxloh on an initiative designed to improve cleanliness on the public transport system.

Cleanliness is a prerequisite, not only for public transport. Unfortunately, cleanliness is a service most people only notice when it is missing.

The ‘Kölner Verkehrsbetriebe’ (KVB) is one of the major public transport companies in Germany, used by more than 850,000 people in Cologne every day. About 370 trams and 305 buses provide for high mobility and a dense network of 222 tram stops and 657 bus stops enhances convenience for the passengers. Smoking has not been allowed in trams and buses for many years now. Furthermore, smoking on plat-forms of the underground railway (which is not strictly separated from the above-ground system) is also prohibited.

For more than two years the consumption of cold and hot drinks as well as the consumption of food has been prohibited – and the KVB draws a positive conclusion: not only trams and busses but also tram and bus stops are much more tidy. This has increased customer satisfaction and reduced cleaning costs at the same time. In November 2007 the KVB launched the campaign, mainly to prevent passengers from the stains of ice cream, hot coffee or French fries
on their clothes, beer cans and bottles on the floor and rubbish all around.

Since then, the KVB has spent an additional €500,000 annually for extra cleaning at the terminal stops during the day. Moreover, about 18 cleaners remove waste like old newspapers, packaging and other litter. Annually passengers leave about 65 tons of litter, 20–25 per cent of this is collected during intermediate cleaning during the day. Annually, about €1 million is spent on cleaning of the vehicles, however, it seems that the campaign has helped to reduce these costs.

The annual KVB budget for cleaning, including tram and bus stops etc, is about €3 million. Two contract cleaning companies provide their services to keep the public transport system of Cologne clean. Cleanliness is a major factor in terms of customer satisfaction. Most passengers support the prohibition of food, drinks and cigarettes in the vehicles. They had often complained about filthy seats and floors and litter like empty bottles, cans and food litter. In addition they complained about the ruthless use of tobacco and alcohol.

Ignoring restrictions

This actually implies that some people still ignore the restrictions; in particular on the weekend people tend to ‘forget’ that beer, coffee and fast food must be consumed outside the buses and trams. Occasionally even the smoking ban is violated. It can, however, become dangerous for passengers to complain directly; in the past there have been violent attacks on passengers who asked others to stop smoking or not to spill their beer - a complaint can bring deadly consequences and fatal incidents have been recorded.

Violations of the prohibition can be punished, sometimes drastically: violators of the smoking ban can be fined up to €1,000, contamination of seats and floors can cost €20. In any case the ‘right of owner or occupier of premises to undisturbed possession' can be applied and the respective violator has to leave the vehicle and premises of the public transport company.


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