The Technology & Design Forum of the Railway & Mass Transit Interiors Technology & Design Expo 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, provided a three-day conference into new product and service innovations and case studies, including textile seat covers and carpets in trains.
In 1972 the seats of the 669 railcars of the San Francisco Bay Area Transit System (BART) were refurbished with wool seat covers to protect the interior foam in the seat from arsonists. This protection against fire was widely regarded as successful.
However, the annual cleaning costs of the seat covers were relatively expensive at about US$600,000 and fabric replacement was required after three years at a cost of US$15,500 per railcar.
An article in the New York Times in 2011 drew attention to the high bacteria contamination of the seat covers owing to the difficulty in proper cleaning. To solve this problem, BART opened several seat laboratories to assess alternatives to the wool seat covers, with ease of achieving cleanliness an important parameter. The result of this evaluation was a clear preference for vinyl covers, despite the reduced plush comfort.
Omnova’s PreVaill Transit vinyl upholstery was chosen as it: lasts for at least 10 years, compared with three years for wool seat covers; offers improved cleanability with wet wipes; and lower investment and maintenance costs, explained Scott Gipson, global business director, Omnova Solutions. Some 74% of passengers preferred the vinyl to the fabric seats, according to a survey of passengers.
The lesson to be learnt from this case is that textile seat covers should be easily cleanable with aqueous disinfectant detergents and preferably should have antibacterial treatment. Improvements in wool finishing technology now allow shrink-resist wool seat covers with an effective wet-cleaning treatment that prevents shrinkage of the fabric.
For the full story, see the December 2012 edition of MobileTex. Not a subscriber? Subscribe HERE