Westerlo schoolkids come up with new way to tackle train graffiti

Westerlo schoolkids come up with new way to tackle train graffiti

A team from a school in Westerlo in Antwerp province has won a competition set to find new ways of removing graffiti from trains. The Belgian Railways Competition for Technicians (BERT) takes place every year, and this year’s edition was aimed at finding new and better ways of detecting and removing graffiti from trains. The problem costs the rail authority SNCB an estimated 4.2 million euros a year.

Last year some 138,000 square metres of graffiti was removed, an increase on previous years. “That doesn’t mean more graffiti is being created,” a spokesperson for the SNCB said. “But we are spending more on removing it, because clean trains contributes to customer-friendliness.”

The problem was this year set for teams from the third grade (fifth and sixth year) of the technical and professional school circuit, for the annual BERT competition, the final of which was held in Train World in Schaerbeek.

The Sint-Lambertus school in Westerlo took the prize for a system which involves a camera in a tunnel which takes photos of trains as they pass. Those are then compared with a database of photos of each train type, and if a difference is detected, the train is later diverted to a siding for cleaning.

“The proper maintenance of trains plays an essential role in customer satisfaction, which is a priority for the SNCB,” the spokesperson said. “That is why graffiti, which is still too often placed on trains, needs to be removed as soon as possible.”

The competition involves a prize of 5,000 euros for the winning school, and travel cheques worth 200 euros for each member of the winning team. The competition is organised by the SNCB and HR Rail, the legal employer of SNCB personnel.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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