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Elizabeth Line 'ghost marks' to be tackled by TfL, says London Mayor

Commuters have left 'ghost' marks on the walls of Elizabeth Line tube stations, which only opened in 2022. (SWNS)
Commuters have left 'ghost' marks on the walls of Elizabeth Line tube stations, which only opened in 2022. (SWNS)

Efforts to remove so-called "ghost marks" on platform walls on the London Underground's new Elizabeth Line are underway after the issue was raised with the Mayor of London.

Transport for London (TfL) is exploring various ways to clean walls behind seating at some of its stations, as well as trialling vinyl seat covering to stop the marks from appearing.

At the end of last year, pictures of London's newest tube line showed "ghost marks" - grey outlines of people - left after commuters sitting on benches leaned against the walls. Marks were pictured at Tottenham Court Road as well as at Liverpool Street, with the stations' white walls appearing to be stained by commuters' coats and heads.

The Elizabeth Line, named after the late Queen Elizabeth II, opened on 24 May 2022 - 13 years after construction on the line began in 2009. The 41-stop route now hosts 204.296 million passenger journeys per year, costing the Government around £18.9 billion.

Ghost marks are just one of several problems to have dogged the flagship line, as it recorded the biggest increase in cancellations in the country for a period last year. According to figures published in December from Office for Rail and Road, nearly 5,000 Elizabeth line trains - a total of 5.2% - were cancelled between July and September.

The line also dropped in punctuality, but apparently 82.8% of trains still arrived on time or within five minutes of timetable. Sadiq Khan has previously apologised after widespread criticism of regular disruption on the line, saying it was "not good enough".

The marks appeared at Tottenham Court Road station as well as Liverpool Street station, with the stations' white walls appearing to be stained by commuters' coats and heads. (SWNS)
The marks appeared at Tottenham Court Road station as well as Liverpool Street station, with the stations' white walls appearing to be stained by commuters' coats and heads. (SWNS)

The latest issue around ghost marks was raised in a written question to London Mayor Sadiq Khan by Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon.

She wrote: "It has been reported that because people are leaning against the white walls at Elizabeth line stations, they are leaving marks. How are you ensuring this is regularly cleaned to ensure the stations remain fresh for decades to come?

Rigorous cleaning programme

A written answer published on the Mayor of London's website said: "A rigorous cleaning programme is maintained at all of Transport for London’s (TfL’s) stations to ensure a clean and safe environment for customers.

"However, TfL is exploring new ways to clean the walls behind seating at some of its Elizabeth line stations to try to remove any marks and protect the walls in future. TfL is also trialling the installation of vinyl coverings behind the seating area and is in the process of evaluating the results."

The Mayor of London's office said work is underway to clean the walls and to find ways to protect them. (SWNS)
The Mayor of London's office said work is underway to clean the walls and to find ways to protect them. (SWNS)

Who is in charge of cleaning the London Underground?

TfL, which runs the London Underground, has previously been asked in a Freedom of Information Request about its cleaning programmes across its networks, buses, tube and rail. In its response, it said it: "has always had a robust cleaning regime in place across London’s public transport network".

It said its cleaning schedule for Tube trains consists of three different levels of cleaning: pre-service cleans (daily), intermediate cleans (every 3-4 days) and deep cleans (every 21-28 days). It said the seats, floors and surfaces are cleaned daily on every train as part of the pre-service clean, while intermediate cleans also include the cleaning of window ledges, windows, interior panels, the driver's cab and windscreens. The deep clean involves a full clean of the interior and exterior of the train.

TFL has previously said that cleaning also involves touch points around the network, including hand rails and escalators, while teams also clean the tube lines themselves - a role previously referred to as 'fluffers'.