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Back End tour

At the Street Parade with SBB RailClean.

Traveller (platinum)

2_Sauberkeit_1200x675.jpgBeats are booming from portable speakers, combining with the cheerful chatter of partiers to form a deafening hum. It’s the Street Parade.

Just under a million people attend the party on the shores of Lake Zurich. Most of them travel on the night and special event trains, of which there are over 100, and leave their traces in the station. Niki de Saint Phalle’s Nana – the guardian angel of passengers – flies high above our heads, unimpressed by the hustle and bustle. With her glowing colours, she could be part of the parade. But the fat Nana is our meeting point, because we’re not here to party. Tonight we’re helping SBB RailClean clean a station in quite an exceptional state.

1_Sauberkeit_1200x675.jpgRunning through the station,

Dominique greets us with a laugh. “Are you wearing good shoes? Then let’s go!” She is a team leader at RailClean. One of 400 employees who ensure the stations are clean from early in the morning until late at night, day in, day out. There’s far more to RailClean’s work than just cleaning floors and emptying bins. They’re also responsible for caretaking, removing graffiti and clearing station thoroughfares in winter.

Dominique works speedily. When we’re on the go we’re forever bumping into the two-strong teams in fluorescent jackets who are cleaning floors, collecting rubbish, whipping toilets into shape. “People think a bit of cleaning can’t be hard.” The training to be a cleaning specialist is challenging, she says, as the job requires a lot of expertise. And apparently a high level of organisational skill: Dominique switches between answering questions on the phone, giving instructions over the radio – the teams are linked by radio – and bending down every few metres to pick up rubbish on the floor.

Getting acquainted with Glutton, Jonas and Juma.
We find out about everything that is needed to clean a station in the materials room: as well as pallets containing towels, toilet paper and cleaning products, there is also an impressive fleet of vehicles. We meet “Glutton”, the giant vacuum cleaner. The name is appropriate, as he effortlessly makes cigarette butts, half-eaten hamburgers and chewing gum disappear down his long trunk. “Jonas” is not one of Dominique’s colleagues, but a machine that dry-cleans floors. “Kärcher B 250 R Bp” will undoubtedly be used a fair few times tonight to wet-clean the sticky floors, looking at all the spilled beer outside. And the cleaning machine Juma Rotomac 360 even removes stubborn chewing gum from the cracks in the escalators.

4_Sauberkeit_1200x675.jpg“Krchchschzt.” Dominique’s radio crackles. The ÜWZ monitoring centre is reporting a big puddle on platform 33/34, section B, so the team leader sends one of the mobile cleaning team there immediately. The mishap is fixed within a few minutes.

On a normal Saturday, 18 people would be working shifts to keep the station clean. During the Street Parade there’s over 50. Bringing in temporary employees is the only way to tackle the task. They are equipped with gloves, protective glasses and litter pickers and help RailClean’s employees with their work.

World champions in recycling.
Zurich main station has had recycling facilities since last year. They are emptied three times a day. She is delighted that the passengers are able to sort almost all recyclable materials correctly. It means that 750 tonnes of newspapers, plastic bottles and aluminium cans every year, that would previously have ended up in an in incineration, are now recycled.

In addition, 38,000 tonnes of rubbish is removed from stations throughout Switzerland every year. With a staff of 400, that makes 95 tonnes per person. Each employee therefore disposes of around 260 kilograms of waste every day.

The cleanest place in Zurich.
We meet Giezel on the Löwenstrasse arcade, the cleanest place in Zurich during the Street Parade. Whilst he explains his cleaning trolley to us, a mob of people dressed as animals rush past us into the next S-Bahn to Stadelhofen. Straight off to the heart of the parade. Giezel is often asked for directions: “Hey! Where’s Burger King?” “Go up the stairs and take a left.” It is clear that working at RailClean involves much more than just cleaning.

3_Sauberkeit_1200x675.jpgBright marble floors, dazzling light, white walls: I ask Dominique if she ever wishes that she was cleaning a station where you couldn’t see every single speck of **bleep**. “No, the passengers’ time in the station has to be as pleasant as possible,” she retorts. Even here under ground, a friendly atmosphere can be created with lots of light and a bright environment. “Incidentally, the floor is really great to clean,” she adds, beaming almost as brightly as the snow-white walls.

The party is over.
The Street Party comes to an end at 10 p.m. While some continue the celebrations in clubs, others make their way back home on the train. We also say goodbye and do a final lap of the station. Tired ravers looking exhausted and with painful feet are sitting on the floor, surrounded by their rubbish. However, Aniba is on hand and is driving “Jonas” stoically around the main hall.

6_Sauberkeit_1200x675.jpgFor Dominique, Giezel, Peter, Lulu, Aniba, Samuel and all the others, the end of their shift is still long off. They will carry on working until the early hours. On Sunday morning, the station will again look as if nothing had happened.

Text: Martina Messerli, SBB
Photos: Severin Bigler, Keystone